Igor Butman, recognized as a great saxophone jazz player, and the one who fellow saxophonist U.S. President Bill Clinton called his “favorite living saxophone player,” is being considered for a Grammy, a music industry top award.

Under normal circumstances, Butman would be a likely contender for many awards, given his well-known discography. However, his earlier stated views on Ukraine and the Crimea annexation have created consternation among Ukraine supporters.

According to published information, Butman was born in Leningrad (now St Petersburg), Russia, and emigrated to the United States in the late 1980s, where he became a citizen.

Choosing to become an American caused problems for Butman in Russia when he was chosen to be on the management council of United Russia – the political party of Vladimir Putin – in 2008. Russians questioned whether someone with dual-citizenship should be allowed to such senior positions.


After the illegal annexation in 2014, Butman vocally supported Putin’s actions. According to Butman himself, the U.S. State Department warned him not to play at a conference in the occupied territory, however he ignored their pleas and he played anyway (despite American sanctions).

The Kyiv Post was not able to immediately verify how the State Department treated Butman’s behavior, but the Russian press has run stories indicating that Butman’s American citizenship was in jeopardy for “aiding forces hostile to the United States,” one of the categories by which naturalized citizens can lose their blue passports.

According to online information, it appears that Butman will be considered for a Grammy for a recent work. Whether someone who has violated U.S. sanctions and supported Putin’s illegal war can win remains a different question.

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