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Ukraine trolls Russia and pro-Putin Limp Bizkit frontman at the same time

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Fred durst

Ukraine used a song performed by famously pro-Russian musician Fred Durst to troll Russian forces on social media this week.

On Thursday, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence posted a new video on its official Twitter/X account showing what appears to be a Russian Ural-4320 general-purpose military vehicle being stalked, and ultimately destroyed, by a Ukrainian suicide drone. This post, in itself, isn’t particularly unusual fare for social media accounts tied to Ukraine’s MoD, but what accompanied it was.

As the Ukrainian drone hunts down the six-wheeled Russian vehicle, it’s accompanied by the song, Take a Look Around by the 1990s “Nu Metal” band Limp Bizkit.

This wasn’t just an unusual choice because Limp Bizkit stopped being relevant two decades ago: rather, it’s particularly strange because the band’s frontman, Fred Durst, has been such an outspoken supporter of Russia’s military occupation of Crimea – a strategic Ukrainian peninsula captured by Russia in 2014. In fact, Durst was banned from even entering Ukraine between 2015 and 2020 as a result of it.

After Russia captured Crimea, Fred Durst asked to move there

Fred Durst singing
Fred Durst (Achim Raschka/Wikimedia Commons)

In the fall of 2013, Ukraine’s then-president, Viktor Yanukovych, refused to sign a free-trade agreement with the European Union that had already been overwhelmingly approved by Ukraine’s parliament, deciding to distance Ukraine from the West in favor of closer ties to Russia instead.

Almost immediately, nationwide protests ensued, with Ukrainian citizens taking to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the government, citing authoritarian repression of Yanukovych’s political opponents, broad abuses of power, and widespread corruption within the government. Many accused Yanukovych of being a Russian asset, making policy decisions based on directives from Moscow, rather than on the country’s needs.

Yanukovych’s government responded to these protests with brutal crackdowns, culminating in an event now known as the “Maiden Massacre” in Ukraine’s capital on February 20, 2014, where at least 50 protestors were gunned down by authorities in the city’s streets. In all, more than a hundred Ukrainian civilians were killed in these crackdowns. Yet, rather than breaking the spirit of the protestors, these deaths only galvanized support for their cause. Just days later, Yanukovych signed an agreement with his opposition and fled Kyiv; this was followed immediately by a unanimous parliamentary vote to oust the embattled president from office.

Related: Ukrainian pilots are training to fly F-16s. Here’s what we know

Yanukovych would later call this vote “illegal,” asking the Russian government for help returning him to power. While Moscow was quick to characterize this change of power as a “Western-backed coup,” the Kremlin had no intention of coming to his aid. Instead, Russian forces took advantage of the turmoil within Ukraine to advance across the border, start the Donbas war, and occupy the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. By the time the dust had settled, Russian troops were dug in, and Ukraine could do nothing to recapture its stolen land.

Well aware of the importance perception plays in geopolitics, Russia’s newly appointed head of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, kicked off a media campaign aimed at attracting Western celebrities to Russia’s newly conquered territory to create what he described as a “New Beverly Hills.” Newly appointed Russian mayors throughout Crimea followed this announcement with offers to provide celebrities with resources, funding, and even land grants if they were willing to move to the area. Yet, those offers were specifically contingent on the celebrities agreeing to “take part in an advertising campaign” (i.e. propaganda) promoting the new Russian Crimea.

In Aksyonov’s open letter announcing this initiative to the media, he cited three celebrities who had already expressed their interest in taking part: a French actor named Samy Naceri, former professional boxer Roy Jones Jr, and Limp Bizkit frontman, Fred Durst. Just days prior, Roy Jones Jr. was awarded Russian citizenship by a decree of Vladimir Putin himself.

Durst said he wanted to ‘help people all around the world to understand that Putin is a great guy’

Fred Durst Crimea sign
Fred Durst holding up a sign that reads, “Crimea = Russia.”

Durst immediately responded to Aksyonov’s open letter, announcing that he’d like to live in Crimea for six months of the year, while retaining his U.S. citizenship because his child lived stateside. Soon thereafter, Durst announced his marriage to a Crimean woman named Kseniya Beryazina, though oddly, he claimed they’d been married “in secret” three years prior.

In his letter, Durst announced his intentions to direct television shows and movies that would “take Russia to a new level” in the media industry, going on to say that he wanted to work for a “great future of Crimea and Russia.”

Pictures soon surfaced of Durst, in front of a crowd, holding up a sign in Russian that read “Crimea = Russia,” before also appearing on a radio program where he explained that he was hoping to get a Russian passport and that his wife was actively teaching him Russian for their upcoming move.

“If you have connections with the relevant authorities that could assist me to get one, share them,” Durst told the interviewer.

A few months later, Limp Bizkit not only announced a new Russian tour, but publicly declared their willingness to perform in Russian-occupied cities in Eastern Ukraine.

“We talked to the band about adding [the cities] to the next tour, and in general the guys say that they will consider proposals of those inviting them and maybe include Donetsk and Luhansk in this schedule,” said the band’s tour organizer, Eduard Ratnikov.

Durst would continue digging a hole for himself, going on record about his plans in Crimea to say, “I am sure that we can do many important things together and it will help Russia, and it will help people all around the world to understand that Putin is a great guy with clear moral principles and a nice person.”

Related: Artillery can win or lose the war for Ukraine

Ukraine bans Durst from entering the country for five years

Unsurprisingly, Ukraine’s government did not appreciate Durst’s fervor for Crimea’s Russian occupation, ultimately opting to bar him from entering Ukraine for five years starting in 2015, citing “the interests of guaranteeing the security of our state.”

Failing to read the room once more, Durst lashed out at Ukrainian authorities, positing that it was them who didn’t understand the implications of what he was doing.

“I am not mad at the ignorant gesture made about me by ‘someone’ in Ukraine’s government,’” he wrote. “I actually feel sad that not only are their facts completely wrong, but they are wasting so much time and energy focusing on things that do not matter when they can clearly be attending to other more serious matters.”

Although Durst had previously asked about securing a Russian passport live on air, he went on to claim that he never wanted one in the first place.

“I did not ask to live in Crimea or for citizenship there. Crimea actually asked me, and I declined. It’s too sensitive a matter right now. I have many friends and family in Ukraine, and Russia. I have respect and love for them both,” Durst wrote.

Durst’s Crimean in-laws would soon leave the occupied peninsula, moving to the Russian city of St. Petersburgh. Durst and his Crimean wife would ultimately divorce in 2019.

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Alex Hollings

Alex Hollings is a writer, dad, and Marine veteran.