Russian artists refuse to play state-sponsored concerts in Belarus after fans ask them ‘not to support dictatorship’
A number of Russian artists have refused to perform at the free, state-sponsored concerts taking place across Belarus on the day before the presidential elections (the vote is on August 9). This was reported by news outlet Nasha Niva, among other Belarusian media on Thursday, August 6.
The day before, the Belarusian Culture Ministry announced that on August 8, they will be putting on free concerts “For Belarus” in 13 cities across the country. The state newspaper, SB. Belarus Segodnya, named a number of Belarusian and international artists who were supposed to perform. In response, Belarusian citizens began writing to these artists on social media, asking them to refuse to play and “not support dictatorship.”
Not long after, a number of artists announced that they were turning down the invitation to perform. Among the artists who declined are Belarusian performer Mavl (Мэвл), as well as several Russian artists: the duets Rasa and Dzharo & Khanza, the band Car-Man (Кар-Мэн), as well as singers Leonid Agutin, Stas Pyekha, and Yulianna Karaulova.
Russian singer Grigory Leps, who agreed to perform in Belarus on August 8, responded to criticism by saying: “The people are waiting for me. I have to bring them joyful moments with my music. I don’t care about anything else.”
The Belarusian presidential elections are set to take place on August 9. President Alexander Lukashenko (Alyaksandr Lukashenka), who has been in power for 26 years, is running for his sixth consecutive term. His main competitor is opposition politician Svetlana Tikhanovskaya (Svitlana Tsikhanouskaya), who entered the race after her husband, opposition blogger Sergey Tikhanosvsky (Syarhey Tsikhanousky), was banned from participation and jailed.
Tikhanovskaya’s campaign rallies have drawn thousands of supporters in cities across Belarus (her rally in Minsk on July 30 drew more than 60,000 people, making it the biggest demonstration the country had seen in a decade). However, in the past few days, the authorities have used various pretexts to prevent her from campaigning. On August 6, Tikhanovskaya announced that she wouldn’t be holding any more campaign events.