MIDWAY:Singing mayor

The mayor of Kiev in Ukraine has come up with a novel method of winning votes: singing. Last week Leonid Chernovetskiy, released a CD of his greatest hits. They include cover versions of popular ballads from the Soviet Union in the 1980s, as well as schmaltzy duets with his wife. The tradition of bard-singing in Russia and Ukraine is an old one. Since at least the 1950s, gravel-voiced middle-aged men have strummed guitars and sung in pubs about the meaning of life.

Usually, though, they are not elected officials. The mayor is the first to use singing as an election weapon. Supporters who turn up to Chernovetskiy’s rallies at the Maidan have grown used to their mayor bursting into song. Earlier this month he sang to them: “I am giving my burning heart to you/ It is burning for you to live better.” Other lyrics on his website include the haunting: “What wax does not afraid fire/ And for you and me, burning down candles cry.” The mayor modestly describes his songs as “heartbreaking”.

He has even compared himself with the Soviet era singer Vladimir Vysotsky, whose Moscow grave is still a popular pilgrimage site — and whose work he has ripped off. Recent footage on YouTube shows the mayor performing live during a Valentine’s ball. At one point Chernovetskiy can be seen vogue-ing. He carries on singing while embracing his wife, and finishes off dancing with children dressed as angels.

A millionaire businessman and evangelical Christian, Chernovetskiy has been mayor since 2006. Interestingly, given his own wealth, his strongest support has come from Kiev’s poor and homeless, who appear to like his unorthodox stunts. Not everyone, however, is impressed. Last week a group of deputies in Ukraine’s parliament called for an examination of Chernovetskiy’s mental state.

The mayor’s behaviour was increasingly erratic, the MPs said, citing his recent decisions to charge for entry to cemeteries, and to sack the head of Kiev zoo for failing to find the mayor’s pet elephant “a wife”. The other day officials in Kiev defended the mayor’s decision to release his own CD, which — they explained — can be ordered from his website. “These are songs he likes. He has a very good ear,” his spokeswoman said.