Mark Knopfler has canceled a pair of performances in Russia over what he called a "crackdown" on human rights groups. The former Dire Straits guitarist pulled out of concerts scheduled for June 7th in Moscow and June 8th in St. Petersburg.
"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 wrote on his website. "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 searched more than 100 groups in recent weeks, the BBC reports, raids that critics say are attempts by President Vladimir Putin's government to suppress political dissent. Putin's United Russia party passed a law last November requiring rights groups that receive funding from overseas to register as "foreign agents."
"I don't just understand Knopfler's decision. I respect it," Anton Nosk, an anti-government blogger, wrote.
Knopfler has spoken up before about conditions in Russia. Along with artists including Madonna and Paul McCartney, Knopfler expressed support for Pussy Riot last August when three members of the Russian punk collective were convicted of anti-religious "hooliganism" for staging a protest against Putin in Moscow's main cathedral. Many observers denounced the proceedings as a political show trial.
"Whenever a political regime or religious establishment refuses to tolerate criticism, it advertises itself as repressive, backward and insecure," he said in a statement at the time. "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."
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