Mark Knopfler can take credit for many things – having one of the top five selling albums of the Eighties with “Brothers in Arms” being the obvious one – but he stands taller this week because he stood up to Russia and their attacks on human rights groups.
On his official website the following statement was left: “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. 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. MK”
He is protesting against the recent NGO policy which ‘allows’ government to search the premises of Non-Governmental Offices. Over a hundred groups have had their offices raided so far and the numbers look set to increase as Putin continues with his clampdown on any kind of freedom or influence from foreign countries in Russia. Some offices are being repeatedly targeted – especially those who are involved with Human Rights issues, transparency or political groups from outside Russia. And there’s no real discrimination as UK, German and even some Russian groups who have funding from outside countries are being raided – most of which is seen as a backlash against the anti-government protests seen last year in Moscow as the Presidency was passed back to Putin under cries of foul play in the election.
Being Ex-KGB Putin is not a man who believes in openness, he plays his politics very close to his chest and more and more young Russians are losing patience with this. The incident with Pussy Riot was a prime example last year where the rock group deliberately pushed the limits of acceptability to gain publicity for these types of issues. Even the new Miss Russia has spoken out about the Human Rights issues and challenging the ruling party on Pussy Riot’s sentences to prison camps and twenty young feminists were arrested when they protested as part of International Women’s Day for challenging the government.
While the world sat up and noticed after the band’s incarceration, very little appears to have changed since and there are on going struggles to be heard above all he issues in the Middle East. Russia might be a shadow of its former self but we should never forget that they still are a huge country with heavy influence in the political world. While we are worried about Syria, Iran and North Korea an old problem may be raising its head again.