Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, made a surprise appearance at this year’s Grammy Awards.
The country’s leader shared a video message with the American people, before a performance by John Legend and talent from Ukraine like poet Lyuba Yakimchuk.
During his speech, Zelensky asked “what’s more opposite to music,” as he compared “swooping rockets” and “shooting stars,” while sharing that over 400 children have been injured and 153 killed since Russia’s invasion.
“The war doesn’t let us choose who survives and who stays in eternal silence,” he said in the video. “Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals. Even those who can’t hear them. But the music will break through anyway. We defend out freedom. To live. To love. To sound. On our land, we are fighting Russia, which brings horrible silence with its bombs. The dead silence. Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today. To tell our story. Tell the truth about this war on your social networks, on TV. Support us in any way you can. Any—but not silence.”
Zelensky was previously rumored to speak at the Academy Awards last weekend, as actor Sean Penn said that there was “nothing greater that the Academy Awards could do than to give him that opportunity to talk to all of us,” before vowing to destroy his Oscars if they didn’t get the Ukraine president involved.
“Now, it is my understanding that a decision has been made not to do it,” he said. “That is not me commenting on whether or not President Zelensky had wanted to. If the Academy has elected not to do it, if presenters have elected not to pursue the leadership in Ukraine who are taking bullets and bombs for us—along with Ukrainian children that they are trying to protect—then I think every single one of those people, and every bit of that decision will have been the most obscene moment in all of Hollywood history.”
Many in the entertainment industry plan to partake in a social media rally later this month, called Stand Up for Ukraine, to draw attention to the invasion and request aid and emergency funding from world leaders. The Weeknd, Billie Eilish, and Pharrell Williams are among those who plan to participate.