The Killers have apologised after lead singer Brandon Flowers was booed for bringing a Russian fan onstage at a concert in Georgia – the former Soviet state that Russia invaded in 2008 – and urging the crowd to think of each other as “brothers and sisters”.

Towards the end of the concert, held on Tuesday night in Batumi, Georgia, the band invited a man to play drums with them during the song For Reasons Unknown.

“We don’t know the etiquette of this land but this guy’s a Russian,” Flowers can be heard telling the crowd, who responded with a mixture of cheers and boos. “You OK with a Russian coming up here?”

Part of the audience left concert of @thekillers at the Black Sea Arena in Georgia in protest after amid booing the group’s frontman who invited a Russian drummer to the stage and said everyone are “brothers and sisters” pic.twitter.com/mhtklWIOKf

— Formula NEWS | English (@FormulaGe) August 15, 2023

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Part of the audience left concert of @thekillers at the Black Sea Arena in Georgia in protest after amid booing the group’s frontman who invited a Russian drummer to the stage and said everyone are “brothers and sisters” pic.twitter.com/mhtklWIOKf

— Formula NEWS | English (@FormulaGe) August 15, 2023

After the song, Flowers addressed the incident to further boos from concertgoers. “You can’t recognise if someone’s your brother? He’s not your brother?” he asked. “We all separate on the borders of our countries? … Am I not your brother, being from America?”

Flowers continued, urging the audience to celebrate “that we’re here together”.

“I don’t want it to turn ugly,” he said. “And I see you as my brothers and my sisters.”

#Russia|n drummer at The Killers concert spoke about the Russian-#Georgia|n “friendship”, which caused public protests pic.twitter.com/bVf7TMrFFw

— Mtavari TV (@MtavariChannel) August 15, 2023

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Many people reportedly left the stadium in protest, though according to the user-sourced concert database Setlist.fm, The Killers played through to the end of their show.

Russia continues to occupy 20% of Georgian territory after its invasion in 2008. Since 2022 and the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine, there has been an influx of Russians to Georgia, which gained independence from Soviet rule in 1991. Some Russians have faced a backlash inside, including Russian cruise ship arrivals being hounded.

“Good people of Georgia, it was never our intention to offend anyone!” the group later wrote in a statement. “We have a longstanding tradition of inviting people to play drums and it seemed from the stage that the initial response from the crowd indicated that they were okay with tonight’s audience participation member.”

pic.twitter.com/mfuAf2I8xb

— The Killers (@thekillers) August 15, 2023

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The band said that Flowers’ comments onstage “meant to suggest that all of The Killers’ audience and fans are ‘brothers and sisters’”, but that they recognised this meaning could be misconstrued”.

“We stand with you and hope to return soon,” they said.

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