Skip to main content

Russian cellist fired from Beijing orchestra after off-key behavior

By Alexis Lai, CNN
updated 4:56 AM EDT, Wed May 23, 2012
Principal cellist Oleg Vedernikov rehearses with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra in Beijing on March 13.
Principal cellist Oleg Vedernikov rehearses with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra in Beijing on March 13.
  • Beijing Symphony Orchestra fired its principal cellist after his boorish behavior was caught on camera
  • The Russian national refused to remove his bare feet from a fellow train passenger's headrest, taunting and cursing at her
  • Beijing Symphony Orchestra said the incident damaged the group's reputation, following widespread public outcry on Sina Weibo

(CNN) -- The principal cellist of the Beijing Symphony Orchestra has been dismissed from his post after a video of his boorish behavior on a passenger train last week outraged users on Chinese social networks.

Russian national Oleg Vedernikov was filmed with his bare feet placed on the headrest of a female passenger in front of him. He refused to remove them after she repeatedly objected, then taunted her and used obscenities in Chinese as she swatted at his feet with a newspaper and threw magazines and plastic bottles at him in frustration. When train staff showed up, he denied knowledge of the incident.

But the heated exchange, captured on video by a fellow passenger, provoked widespread public criticism after it was widely circulated on Chinese microblogging website Sina Weibo.

The orchestra announced Vedernikov's dismissal in a statement published Monday on its official website.

"Beijing Symphony Orchestra firmly believes that Oleg's conduct has badly damaged the orchestra's reputation," the statement said. "In accordance with the orchestra's regulations and the terms of his employment contract, Beijing Symphony Orchestra has dismissed him."

Music director and principal conductor Tan Lihua said, "the orchestra, as a civilized envoy of high culture, requires all of its staff, including foreign performers, to comply with the country's laws and regulations as well as traditional moral standards."

Vedernikov's dismissal is the latest in a series of high-profile incidents involving foreigners behaving badly in China. Two weeks ago, a drunk British tourist was captured on video attempting to sexually assault a Chinese woman in public. Again, this provoked widespread anger on social networking sites, and came at a time when the government is cracking down on foreigners living and working in the country without proper credentials.

CNN's Chi Chi Zhang contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:51 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
David McKenzie meets some American teenagers who are spending a year in China to be fully immersed in the culture.
updated 9:59 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
Chinese students show a handmade red ribbon one day ahead of the the World AIDS Day, at a school in Hanshan, east China's Anhui province on November 30, 2009.
The Chinese government pledges to protect a boy with HIV, who was shunned by his entire village in Sichuan, state media reported.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane.
updated 12:03 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
updated 7:21 PM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons for Beijing.
updated 12:42 AM EST, Sat December 6, 2014
At the height of his power, security chief Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
updated 3:26 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
updated 1:48 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
updated 3:55 AM EST, Wed December 3, 2014
Despite a high-profile anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past year.
updated 7:01 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
updated 7:51 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
A 24-hour bookstore in Taipei is a popular hangout for both hipsters and bookworms.
updated 8:53 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
updated 5:57 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
North Korean refugees and defectors face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.