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Olga Smirnova leaves Russia's Bolshoi Ballet for Netherlands over Ukraine invasion

Olga Smirnova (R) has quit the Bolshoi Ballet after making comments online denouncing Russia's war against Ukraine. Photo by Ekaterina Shtukina/EPA-EFE
Olga Smirnova (R) has quit the Bolshoi Ballet after making comments online denouncing Russia's war against Ukraine. Photo by Ekaterina Shtukina/EPA-EFE

March 17 (UPI) -- Olga Smirnova, a Russian prima ballerina with Moscow's historic Bolshoi Ballet, has left her company to join the Dutch National Ballet over the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine.

Smirnova, whose grandfather is Ukrainian, had early this month publicly denounced the war on Telegram, saying she was against it "with all the fibers of my soul."

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Smirnova's addition to the Dutch ballet was announced in a statement by the company that said she is "welcomed with open arms" and would begin work immediately.

"Dutch National Ballet is a good fit for me and a great place to further my career as a ballerina," the St. Petersburg native said. "I had been thinking about this type of move for quite a while -- it's just that the current circumstances accelerated this process."

The Dutch National Ballet said Smirnova's move was precipitated by her denouncement online of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which was "making it untenable for her to work in her native country," suggesting her decision may have been partially influenced by a new Russian law that criminalizes spreading so-called fake news about the war with up to 10 years in prison.

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"I never thought I would be ashamed of Russia, I have always been proud of talented Russia people, of our cultural and athletic achievements. But now I feel that a line has been drawn that separates the before and the after," she said March 2 on Telegram.

The Dutch National Ballet added that Brazilian soloist Victor Caixeta had also joined the company from St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Ballet.

Earlier this month, Russian conductor Tugan Sokhiev announced that he was resigning as the musical director of the Bolshoi Ballet and of the Toulouse Capitol National Orchestra in France.

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