Sting warns at concert in Warsaw of threats to democracy

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — British musician Sting interrupted a concert in Warsaw on Saturday night to warn his audience that democracy is under attack around the world and to denounce the war in Ukraine as “a nonsense based on a lie.”

I asked a popular Polish actor, Maciej Stuhr, to take the stage to translate his warning that democracy is “in grave danger of being lost if we do not defend it”.

“The alternative to democracy is a prison, a prison of the mind. The alternative to democracy is violence, oppression, imprisonment and silence,” Sting said, then waved his hand on his neck in a sharp gesture.

The 70-year-old delivered his message in a country bordering Ukraine, where Russia launched its invasion on February 2. 24 which killed tens of thousands and displaced millions. Poland has become the refuge of more Ukrainians than any other country.

“The war in Ukraine is nonsense based on a lie. If we swallow this lie, the lie will eat us up,” Sting said. It appears to refer to justifications Russia has tried to give for its invasion, including a Russian claim that it seeks to “denazify” Ukraine, a democracy led by a Jewish president.

Spectators at the National Stadium in Warsaw would also have understood a reference to their own country.

Sting drew loud applause in particular when he said democracy is messy and frustrating “but still worth fighting for”.

Poland’s populist government is often accused by the European Union and human rights organizations of eroding democratic standards with its efforts to tighten control over the courts and the media, curtail women’s reproductive rights and engage in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

After his speech, he performed “Fragile”, the lyrics of which include the words that “nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could”.