Another European country is trying to bar Russian pop singers from entering its territory. This time, it goes about the UK. Two Russian singers - Joseph Kobzon and Valeriya - are expected to perform in London on October 21.
According to The Guardian, the campaign was initiated by "anti-Putin activist Andrei Sidelnikov." Last week, he sent a petition to Downing Street, in which he urged the British government to follow Latvia's example and deny entry to the territory of the United Kingdom for Joseph Kobzon and Alla Perfilova, who is known under her stage name as Valeriya. The activist started to collect signatures for his petition. Soon after Russia's reunification with the Crimea, the Latvian authorities barred Kobzon and Valeriya entry to the territory of Latvia, after the artists supported Russia's moves in the Crimea. The artists were to come to Latvia to take part in a music festival, in which mostly Russian artists take part.
Sidelnikov accuses Kobzon and Valeria of "working for the Kremlin." The man believes that if the singers are allowed to Britain, it will be prove the ineffectiveness of sanctions imposed by the West against Russia.
The Guardian wrote a large article on the subject. The paper provided a few details on the subject. For example, Valeriya and her husband Joseph Prigozhin, the newspaper wrote, were sitting next to Vladimir Putin at the opening of Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix. In addition, Joseph Kobzon is not just a singer, but also an MP of the ruling pro-Kremlin party United Russia and a former chairman of the Duma Committee on Culture.
It appears, though, that the "anti-Putin activist" does not pin great hopes to the success of his undertaking. He plans to hold an action of protest near the Royal Albert Hall, where the concert is going to take place.
The collection of signatures for the petition and appeal to the Office of the Prime Minister does look like a PR campaign of an "anti-Putin activist," who struggles against the "Putin regime," comfortably living in London. The idea, as it turns out, makes sense, taking into consideration the fact that it attracted attention of such a respectable publication as The Guardian.
Of course, the British authorities my not even think that they have to follow the example of Latvia to prove the effectiveness of sanctions. Although, as experience shows, one can expect anything.
In July of this year, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Edgars Rinkevich, blacklisted three Russian cultural figures - Oleg Gazmanov, Joseph Kobzon and Valeriya - for their statements on the situation in Ukraine. Because of the ban, the artists could not take part in the international competition of young singers "New Wave" in Jurmala.
Later, Joseph Kobzon said that he was going to file a lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights. "I applied, with lawyer Mikhail Barshchevsky, paid for the procedure and I'm suing the Latvian government for moral and material damages. I had paid the hotel - 11,500 euros - for the time of my stay in Jurmala, but the hotel did not return the money to me," he explained.
There is a paradox here. "Activists" - both in London and in Moscow - are very concerned about the fact that live gigs of legendary Russian singer and musician Andrei Makarevich get canceled in Russia, allegedly, for his remarks about Ukraine. At the same time, it is considered quite normal for those "activists" that sanctions are absolutely acceptable and even necessary against those, who support Putin.
British producer Glen Huflington told politonline.ru: "It would be mean, if Britain, setting claims of various degree of rationality against Russia about non-admission of EU citizens on its territory, worrying about singer Makarevich and others citizens, who disagree with Putin's authority, does not give a damn on freedom of expression and creativity."
"Such behavior, if it takes place (the activists has collected about 3,600 signatures - ed.) will disavow the protection of protest-oriented Russians that my country pursues," he added.
In turn, Joseph Prigozhin, husband and producer of pop singer Valeriya, told Pravda.Ru:
"There are no worse traitors than former compatriots. This brutishness is everywhere - can't think of another word for it. I would understand it, if it was foreign people doing that - by and large, they do not care much about us.
"We respect the rules of every country, and we do everything within legal frameworks. We have our visas, and the concert will take place, I hope, because, after all, the UK is the very country that exports democracy all over the world. This is the freest country, judging by the number of political refugees, whom they provide shelter to.
"We are already in the UK, and in fact, we have no problems. To spiteful critics, I want to say the following: no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try to burn us for our civil position, we will not be enemies with our own country. Everyone knows that a person capable of betrayal will betray anyone in the name of his own skin."