Name put on ice

Popular Jerusalem bar scraps ‘Putin’ name after Ukraine invasion

Putin Pub has been attracting Russian-speakers in Jerusalem for 15 years; amid Moscow’s assault on its neighbor, owners feel they ‘need to speak up’

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

Putin Pub, Jerusalem, March 2016. (JKB/Wikimedia Commons)
Putin Pub, Jerusalem, March 2016. (JKB/Wikimedia Commons)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has sparked global condemnation against Russian President Vladimir Putin, with some seeking creative ways to express solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

While cities around the world showed their support by lighting up iconic landmarks in blue and yellow, the colors of the Eastern European nation’s flag, a bar in Jerusalem took a different approach — changing its name.

Located along downtown Jerusalem’s Jaffa Street, Putin Pub is popular among Jerusalem’s Russian-speaking community and tourists.

But following the developments in Ukraine, the bar’s owners felt they needed to take a clear stand, so they changed the bar’s name and removed the large “Putin” sign that had been their trademark for the past 15 years.

“We’ve decided to remove the sign and change the pub’s name,” co-owner Leonid Teterin told Channel 12 news.

“We don’t want anything to do with an occupier. We condemn the war and support Ukraine and its people,” he said.

Teterin, who immigrated to Israel from Russia 20 years ago, noted that the bar and its owners were “never into politics, we didn’t want any politics on the bar,” but “everything that has happened in the past few days has made us feel like we need to speak up.”

Teterin said that the bar’s name was never meant to express support for the Russian leader.

“We’re a completely normal bar,” he told Channel 12 news. “The name was simply a gimmick.”

Asked whether he was concerned about changing the name after 15 years, Teterin said it didn’t worry him.

“We will come up with another name together and continue to operate the bar as we’ve always done,” he said. The bar was currently asking customers to make suggestions for a new name, he added.

With the news of the iconic bar changing its name circulating social media, some have suggested the name “Zelensky Pub,” after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Teterin noted that except for a few, most have supported their move.

“We have customers originally from Ukraine who thanked us for the support. They know we’re not politicians and never supported any war anywhere in the world,” he said.

And it seems like taking a side has had its benefits, attracting customers who identify with the cause.

Demonstrators carry placards and flags during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, outside the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv, on February 24, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Jessica, an American citizen currently living in Israel, told the Ynet news site that a new name was a refreshing change for the bar.

“I heard they took down the sign and thought it would be a good idea to be with supporters of Ukraine in such a situation. It felt good to share the same feelings,” she said.

Tomash, a Danish citizen living in Jerusalem’s flashpoint neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, said it was clear to him he would visit the bar after its owner removed the “Putin” sign.

“The situation in Ukraine reminds me of everything going on with the Palestinians – people who are unable to help themselves,” he said.

Many Russian-speaking Israelis have united under the Ukrainian cause in recent days, with some households in Haifa displaying Ukrainian flags, and demonstrators protesting in Tel Aviv against the Russian invasion.

An estimated half-million Israelis have Ukrainian roots, with tens of thousands having arrived within the past few years, following Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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