Mark Knopfler cancels Russia concerts in protest over Putin's 'crackdown' on human rights groups.
Mark Knopfler has cancelled two concerts in Russia in protest at what he calls "a crackdown" on human rights groups.
The guitarist, songwriter and founder of the band Dire Straits was due to perform in Moscow on June 7 and in St Petersburg on June 8.
The move follows 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. In all, Russian authorities have recently carried out unprecedented searches of over 100 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in rights activism.
Knopfler wrote on his 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."
Knopfler 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."
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", a term which echoes Cold War era hostilities.
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: "I don't just understand Knopfler's decision. I respect it."
Martin Chilton Telegraph.co.uk