Photo: Mr. Blinken | The Guardian | It was an unexpected moment at the end of a long day in Kyiv for Antony Blinken, after numerous high-level meetings and serious pronouncements promising the speedy delivery of US military aid. The secretary of state picked up a guitar and performed a rendition of Neil Young’s Rockin’ in the Free World with a Ukrainian rock band.

The images, quickly shared on social media, split opinion in Ukraine, with the performance one of the main topics of discussion in Kyiv on Wednesday. Some hailed Blinken’s turn as a welcome gesture of support, while others questioned the optics of performing in a bar while the situation at the front is so tense.

Blinken took to the stage at Barman Dictat, a well-known speakeasy-style bar in central Kyiv hidden in a basement inside a courtyard, and joined the Ukrainian band 19.99.

“Your soldiers, your citizens – particularly in the north-east, in Kharkiv – are suffering tremendously,” Blinken said before playing. “But they need to know, you need to know, the United States is with you, so much of the world is with you and they’re fighting not just for a free Ukraine, but for the free world. And the free world is with you, too.”

The band were told before the event that they would be performing with Neil Young, said one member, but were asked to keep it a secret. It was only at the last minute that they realised their guest member would be the secretary of state.

“He was connecting with eyes, with our band leader, with me … It was our first performance on stage but it feels like we were a band for two years,” the guitarist Arsen Gorbach told BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday.
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[Thanks to Alex Teitz for contributing this article!]

Photo: Antony Blinken | From his Facebook page [There are also several videos of Mr. Blinken playing]

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