Mark Knopfler scrubs Russian gigs

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LONDON -- Guitarist Mark Knopfler canceled two shows in Russia in protest over what he says is a crackdown on human rights groups in the country, as President Vladimir Putin on Friday dismissed Western criticism of his government's raids on nongovernmental organizations.

The former Dire Straits frontman is scrapping the June gigs in Moscow and St. Petersburg following raids on the Russian offices of groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, according to a post on his website Friday.

"I have always loved playing in Russia and have great affection for the country and the people," he said in the post.

Russian authorities raided hundreds of nongovernmental organizations last month to make sure they comply with a law requiring many of them to register as "foreign agents."


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