Vladimir Putin defends JK Rowling as he claims West trying to 'cancel' Russia

Vladimir Putin cited JK Rowling in a speech to Russia's cultural leaders about cancel culture. Credit: AP

JK Rowling has responded after Vladimir Putin defended her in a speech accusing the West of trying to cancel Russian culture.

The Russian president told cultural leaders from his country, in a televised address, that Western nations were "trying to cancel a whole thousand-year culture, our people".

He claimed there is a campaign against Russian composers such as Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Dmitry Shostakovich and Sergei Rachmaninov.

It appears his comment was in reference to the cancellation of events involving Russian masters in some Western countries in recent weeks.

"In this way they are banning Russian writers and books," Putin added.

He compared the treatment of his country - which has been excluded from hosting numerous international events in response to his invasion of Ukraine - to the reaction faced by Harry Potter writer Rowling over her comments on gender.

“They cancelled Joanne Rowling recently - the children’s author, her books are published all over the world - just because she didn’t satisfy the demands of gender rights,” he said, according to translations.

"They are now trying to cancel our country. I’m talking about the progressive discrimination of everything to do with Russia."

Sharing an article about incarcerated Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Twitter, Rowling wrote: "Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics."

In a subsequent tweet, she detailed the work her Lumos charity is doing in the country.

"Children trapped in orphanages and other institutions are exceptionally vulnerable right now," she said.

"Thank you so, so much to everyone who has already donated to Lumos's Ukraine appeal."

Rowling said she was personally matching all donations to the Lumos emergency appeal up to £1 million.

Rowling has become a controversial figure over her comments on gender identity.

In 2020, she responded to an article headlined "Creating a more equal post-Covid-19 world for people who menstruate" by tweeting: "'People who menstruate.' I'm sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?"

Harry Potter fans have since urged the Potter franchise's owner Disney to remove her from the creative process in future productions and many say they're unable to enjoy the movies any longer because of her comments.

Putin said modern cancel culture reminded him of Nazis burning books in the 1930s.

"We remember the footage when they were burning books," he said.

"It is impossible to imagine such a thing in our country and we are insured against this thanks to our culture.

"And it's inseparable for us from our motherland, from Russia, where there is no place for ethnic intolerance, where for centuries representatives from dozens of ethnic groups have been living together."