Music History

Russia is torturing Ukrainian POWs with ABBA and Cher

Using music as a weapon has been going on for centuries. In recent decades, everything from Metallica to the theme from Barney the Dinosaur has been used to torture people. (II have a whole episode of The Ongoing History of New Music on the subject if you want to know more.)

While we’ve heard horrendous stories of Russian troops torturing Ukrainian POWS with everything from suffocation to electric shock, they’ve also been using music.

A British army vet named Shawn Pinner volunteered to fight the Russians. When he was captured, he was sent to the People’s Republic of Donetsk where he was held for five months. Pinner reports that he was forced to listen to ABBA (specifically the Mamma Mia soundtrack) and Cher (the Auto-Tune hell that is “Do You Believe in Love”) on repeat 24 hours a day while he was a prisoner. A fellow prisoner was forced to listen to patriotic songs from the Soviet era. That was in addition to being stabbed and shocked. Food was stale bread and dirty water.

Then they were both sentenced to death. And the music continued.

Fortunately, a secret deal brokered by the Saudis (who somehow used the services of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich) saw the two men and eight other prisoners swapped.

War is truly hell.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37893 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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