National choir Veryovka and Kvartal 95 leader Yevhen Koshovyi perform "Horila hata" ('A House Was Burning') on stage in Kyiv, Ukraine on October 19.
Screenshot / Kvartal 95
The weekly comedy show produced by the Kvartal 95 studio called “Vechirniy Kvartal” (‘Evening Quarter’) featured a song that mocked the burning of the ex-National Bank of Ukraine head Valeria Gontareva’s house near Kyiv.
The studio jointly founded by the current Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in 2003 often puts on controversial spots like comparing Ukraine to a porn film actress or ridiculing the speech impediment of the former Parliament Speaker Andriy Parubiy. This time, however, Ukraine's most well-known television production studio Kvartal 95 used the famous Veryovka national choir to accompany Yevhen Koshovyi, the new leader of the show after Zelenskyy stepped down.
The arson is first referred to as “a bright event” by the presenter, after which Koshovyi takes to the stage to perform. The song is a rendition of the popular Ukrainian folk song “Horila sosna” ('A pine was burning'). Instead of the pine, the song mentions “a house was burning and a woman in London crying”, as well as “the house in Horenychi (where Gontareva’s house stood -ed.) burning, and Valeria in London thinking of Valerych (oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky’s patronymic -ed.)”. Thus the studio hints at Gontareva blaming Kolomoisky for the attack. The ex-NBU head did not blame Kolomoisky directly for the September 17 arson, but she did previously claim that she was threatened by Kolomoisky, Zelenskyy’s business partner who recently returned to Ukraine from exile following the 2019 presidential elections.
READ MORE: Former NBU Head Gontareva on Threats from Kolomoisky and PrivatBank Nationalization
Gontareva herself in a comment to RFE/RL called the song “a shame”.
The current Culture Minister Volodymyr Borodianskyi on his Facebook page apologized to Gontareva for the spot.
READ MORE: Gontareva Attacks “Tarnish Ukraine’s Image,” Say Experts
On top of that, the Economy Minister Tymofiy Mylovanov said on his Facebook page that “the song is perceived by foreign investors as a sign of a connection between the notorious oligarch and the current authorities”. 1+1 channel, where the show is aired in primetime every Saturday night, is owned by Kolomoisky.
The oligarch himself in a comment to RFE/RL expressed approval of the spot saying “Bravo!” He also denied that it was his order ahead of Gontareva’s birthday on October 20.
In a comment to Ukrinform, artistic director and director of the Veryovka National Academic Choir Zenoviy Korinets said that he is “uncomfortable with the performance of the choir” on Kvartal 95’s show which ridiculed the arson. In a comment to Channel 24, Korinets also mentioned that the proposal came from the studio and he agreed to it after “succumbing to their urges.” According to Korinets, the choir was paid 30,000 hryvnias ($1,200) for their performance.
READ MORE: Ex-NBU Head's House Reportedly Burned Down
Later, the studio also clarified their standpoint on their Facebook page. The post reads "[Vechiriniy] Kvartal is [about] sharp political satire, it has been, it is, and it will be. Even if some politicians don't like it. It is the politicians, their actions and the consequences of their actions that are affecting millions of Ukrainians that give us a reason to [produce] satire."
They also added that they are grateful to Veryovka Choir for their participation in the show, and expressed regret that "the honored ensemble is unjustifiably being subjected to an information attack."