Sting backs out of Kazakhstan president's birthday concert in protest at oil strike crackdown
Sting has backed out of a concert in Kazakhstan to mark the President's birthday, in protest at a government "crackdown" on striking oil workers, The Telegraph reported.
A statement on the former Police frontman's website said the decision had been made on the advice of the international rights group Amnesty International, who had warned that the concert would be "an endorsement of the presidents' administration," and would "go against everything he has stood for, while supporting Amnesty".
The last minute decision to add the Astana date to the Synchronicity World Tour had come as a surprise when it was announced in May, given the hypocrisy charges Sting had faced after he played at a fashion event in nearby Uzbekistan only two years before.
While President Nursultan Nazarbayev's rule is relatively benign compared to that of the highly repressive Uzbek regime, he has nonetheless maintained a tight grip on his country since before the fall of the Soviet Union.
Workers have been striking for more than 40 days in Kazakhstan's oil-rich Western region, in what has been a rare challenge to the country's government. Last week Kazmunaigas EP, the London-listed subsidiary the state oil company fired 250 employees for breaching their contract terms.
"Hunger strikes, imprisoned workers and tens of thousands on strike represents a virtual picket line which I have no intention of crossing," said Sting.
Sting's decision is not only a slight to the Kazakh president, it will also disappoint the citizens of the Kazakh capital, some of whom paid as much as £400 for tickets to the show.
The three days running up to the president's birthday on July 6 were made a national holiday three years ago. Officially the holiday is known as "Astana Day" and celebrates the shifting of the country's capital to Astana.
Last year, Mr Nazarbayev's 70th Birthday, the blind Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli sung Nessun Dorma as the President looked on from a raised dais.