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Blinken plays ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ in Kyiv bar

There was no doubting the message from Antony Blinken’s musical debut in Kyiv on Tuesday night.

The US secretary of state made a surprise appearance on stage in a bar in Kyiv, as he appeared alongside Ukrainian band 19.99 in a rendition of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

Blinken, who played guitar with the punk/jazz band and even joined in on vocals, arrived in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday for a surprise trip, in which he met with President Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss battlefield updates and the importance of newly arrived US aid. The visit is the first by a Biden administration official since the long-delayed passage of US supplemental funding to the war-torn country.

Perhaps even more of a surprise, however, was his appearance at Barman Dictat on Tuesday evening, a popular underground cocktail bar and music venue just off Kyiv’s main street, Khreshchatyk.

The bar, which has heavy metal doors and metal reinforcements along the walls, is popular with war veterans and soldiers on leave.

In a personal address from the stage, Blinken said: “The United States is with you, so much of the world is with you. And they’re fighting, not just for Ukraine but for the free world – and the free world is with you too.”

The venue posted about the unusual performance on its Instagram page, captioning it: “Keep on rocking on a free world! Thanks @secblinken.”

The song was released by Neil Young in 1989 – the year the Berlin Wall fell – on his album entitled “Freedom.”

Although Blinken did not share the footage – or even reference the event – on his social media, his profile describes him as a “(very) amateur guitarist.”

Blinken is not the first US politician to show off his musical talents in a European music venue. Former President Bill Clinton played saxophone at the Reduta Jazz Club in Prague in 1994, after the fall of the Iron Curtain – and returned there to play again earlier this year.

In an interview with BBC Radio’s ”Today” show on Wednesday morning, Arsen Gorbach, the band’s guitarist, said the choice of song had been made by Blinken.

“I think it’s a special song for him,” said Gorbach, who added that he had previously seen videos of the secretary of state playing the rock anthem online.

He told the BBC that the band had earlier received a message that suggested they would be playing with Neil Young himself. Gorbach said the band had been “disappointed” that the rock star did not show up, but he admitted that Blinken was “very good” and that it felt like they had played together as a band for “many years.”

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