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‘No reactive measures were taken’: Russian prosecutors blame mass cancellations of pop and rap concerts on concert organizers themselves

Meduza
An IC3PEAK concert in Krasnodar. December 7, 2018
An IC3PEAK concert in Krasnodar. December 7, 2018
Alina Desiatnichenko for Meduza

At the end of 2018, official pressure led to the cancellation of more than 40 concerts throughout Russia. A handful of acts appeared to be targeted disproportionately, especially the pop groups IC3PEAK and Friendzone along with the rappers Husky and Eldzhey. Although government involvement played a key role in that wave of suppression, Russia’s youth parliament, which is tied to the State Duma, took the administrative initiative to ask regional prosecutors for reports explaining the causes of the cancellations.

Now, TASS reported, the results are in. Regional prosecutors believe that the mass cancellations were ultimately caused by the organizers of the concerts themselves. Law enforcement officers, they asserted, did not prevent the events from taking place.

TASS published excerpts from the documents prosecutors submitted with regards to particular cancellations. Local prosecutors in Krasnodar, where a Husky concert was canceled in late November, wrote that they had received notice that the concert might contain “propaganda for wrongful behavior” through a message from Yelena Udovenko, who leads the Krasnodar branch of the nonprofit organization Common Law.

Officials, making note of the fact that the concert’s age limit was 16+, reacted to Udovenko’s message by warning the concert’s organizers that “it would be unacceptable to violate legal requirements intended to defend children from the spread of wrongful information.”

“No reactive measures intended to prohibit the musician’s performance activities were taken by local law enforcement or government officials,” the Krasnodar prosecutorial office concluded.

After Husky’s performance in a Krasnodar club was canceled, the rapper went outdoors to meet his fans and performed on the roof of a stranger’s automobile. He was arrested and sentenced to 12 days of administrative arrest, but his attorneys later managed to have the sentence canceled.

The Prosecutorial Office of Tatarstan wrote that an IC3PEAK concert in the regional capital of Kazan was cancelled because the venue owner’s rent agreement had been dissolved. Prosecutors denied any “exertion of pressure on the part of government officials.”

“The claim that law enforcement agencies and local government agencies took part in the cancellation of the concert has not been proven,” the republic’s prosecutorial team wrote.

IC3PEAK moved its concert to a different venue in Kazan, but police officers disrupted the concert nonetheless due to claims of a bomb threat in the new venue. Ultimately, no explosives were found in the concert hall, and officials opened a criminal case to investigate the false threat.

In Niznny Novgorod Oblast, prosecutors reported on a series of cancelled concerts by Monetochka, Matrang, Eldzhey, Friendzone, and Jah Khalib. The agency argued that none of the cancellations were related to law enforcement searches, saying that low sales, unexpected illnesses among performers, and other unrelated causes were responsible for the closures.

Translation by Hilah Kohen