Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler has axed two concerts in Russia in protest over a crackdown on human rights groups.
He was due to perform in Moscow on June 7 and in St Petersburg the following night (8) but has now decided to cancel the shows following the decision of Russian prosecutors and tax officials to search the offices of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Memorial, Russia’s oldest rights group, in what Kremlin observers claimed were raids aimed at stifling criticism of President Vladimir Putin.
Knopfler wrote on his official website:
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.
He added: “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.”
Russian authorities have recently carried out unprecedented searches of over 100 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in rights activism, reports The Daily Telegraph. Putin has signed laws to tighten controls on non-governmental organisations since he returned to the presidency in March last year, requiring those with foreign funding to register as “foreign agents”.
Knopfler previously spoke out in support of Pussy Riot when three members were jailed last year. At the time he said: “Whenever a political regime or religious establishment refuses to tolerate criticism it advertises itself as repressive, backward and insecure. This verdict will diminish Russia in the eyes of the world. I condemn the prison sentences given to these young people and support the right to protest for everyone.”