Ukrainians brave bad weather at McCartney benefit concert

Ukrainians brave bad weather at McCartney benefit concert

Tens of thousands of people braved heavy rain and thunder tonight to see Paul McCartney perform a charity concert in Kiev's central Independence Square.

The outdoor show, the first in Ukraine for the former Beatle, was billed as the biggest concert yet in the former Soviet republic.

It was also broadcast live on national television and on giant screens set up in five other Ukrainian cities.

After a half-hour delay because of the weather, McCartney came out on the stage and greeted the crowd in Ukrainian, before diving into the Beatles hit 'Drive My Car'.

"I'm really looking forward to it. Every time I speak to someone who has been to Kiev before they keep telling me what a great place it is with lots of history," McCartney, who turns 66 next week, said in an interview posted on a concert website before the show.

Before the concert, fans in five Ukraine cities sang Beatles songs in a live TV link-up with the capital.

The square where McCartney played was the site of the Orange Revolution in 2004, when peaceful mass protests overturned a fraudulent election and brought a pro-Western opposition leader to power.

Organisers said the money raised would be spent on diagnostic equipment for the children's department of Ukraine's National Cancer Institute. Many children now seek treatment abroad because Ukraine lacks the necessary equipment.

The concert was free but the organisers asked for donations from Ukrainian businessmen and others. More than 500 people contributed a total of about 3 million Ukrainian hryvna (€381,000) and donations were continuing to come in, said Tatyana Overina, spokeswoman for the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, which organised the concert.

Pinchuk, a billionaire businessman and Ukraine's richest man, established the foundation in 2006 with the stated goal of contributing to the modernisation of Ukraine and bringing forward a new generation of Ukrainian leaders.

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