The Hollywood Reporter -- MOSCOW - British singer/songwriter/guitarist Mark Knopfler, formerly of Dire Straits, has canceled his dates in Moscow and St. Petersburg later this year out of protest against Russian authorities' recent crackdown on international NGOs.

"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," he wrote on his web site. "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."

Knopfler's shows were scheduled for June 7 in Moscow and June 8 in St. Petersburg. Ticket holders have been advised to contact their point of purchase for refunds.

Last February and March, Russian law enforcers inspected offices of human rights organizations, including local Memorial and the movement Za Prava Cheloveka (For Human Rights), as well as Russian offices of the international NGOs Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Transparency International in what is largely viewed as a crackdown on foreign-based or funded NGOs, accused by Russian authorities of supporting the oppositionists.

Head of the human rights association, Agora Pavel Chikov, was quoted by the online newspaper as saying that several human rights NGOs have been fined, based on the recent inspections, for up to 500,000 rubles ($15,770).

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