Mark Knopfler cancels Russia tour over NGO crackdown
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Mark Knopfler. Hürriyet photoBritish rock musician Mark Knopfler announced he was cancelling his Russian tour dates because of the Russian authorities' crackdown on NGOs including searches of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
"Given the crackdown by Russian authorities on groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, I have regretfully decided to cancel my upcoming concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg in June," Knopfler said in a statement published on his website late Thursday.
Russian authorities in recent weeks have carried out unprecedented searches of over 100 NGOs involved in rights activism, which Russia insists are routine checks, but which appear to be linked to a controversial law forcing foreign-funded NGOS involved in politics to carry a "foreign agent" tag.
The measure was fast-tracked through parliament upon Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin in May last year in the face of unprecedented protests against his 13-year rule.
The US State Department compared the searches to a "witch hunt." Knopfler, the guitarist and singer who has gone onto a solo career after performing in Dire Straits, was due to perform in Moscow on June 7 and in Saint Petersburg on June 8.
He said he regretted that he had to cancel the tour due to the political situation.
"I have always loved playing in Russia and have great affection for the country and the people. I hope the current climate will change soon." Knopfler's decision was backed by opposition supporters including Anton Nosik, the creator of several popular Russian-language news websites and now media director at SUP Media, owner of LiveJournal.
He wrote on his blog that "I don't just understand Knopfler's decision. I respect it." Other musicians have used concerts in Russia to support the political opposition, including US star Madonna, who last year supported the cause of punk group Pussy Riot and handed out pink wristbands to support gay rights in Saint Petersburg, where a local law bans propaganda of homosexuality to minors.