Former Dire Straits guitarist/vocalist Mark Knopfler has cancelled two of his forthcoming solo shows in Russia in protest over what he has described as a crackdown on human rights groups in the country.
 
Knopfler will no longer perform as scheduled in Moscow and St. Petersburg following raids last month by Russian prosecutors and tax officials on hundreds of non-government organizations, including the Russian offices of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
 
The raids were conducted to ensure compliance of new legislation put through by President Vladimir Putin, which tighten controls on non-governmental organisations that receive foreign funding, requiring them to register as “foreign agents.”
 
The Russian government have insisted the law was designed to curb foreign meddling, while critics have argued it was intended to stifle criticism of Putin.
 
Knopfler objected to the Russian government’s brassiness 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 in June.”
 
He added that he hoped the country’s current political climate would change soon: “I have always loved playing in Russia and have great affection for the country and the people.”
 
Knopfler also recently publicly criticized a Moscow court’s decision to give three members of the band Pussy Riot two year sentences for a protest performance in a Moscow cathedral.