Last-Minute Cancellation of Moscow Fest Reportedly Due to Ukrainian Bookings

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The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia photographed on May 7, 2015.

Raw Fest, a festival scheduled to feature many Russian and Eastern European punk and hardcore acts, was canceled in Moscow this past weekend amid political pressure from authorities just hours before the expected kickoff. Its the second large music event nixed in the Russian capital on short notice in as many weeks.

"We spent the entire day with law enforcers, and they gave us many reasons why the festival shouldn't go ahead," the organizers wrote in a now-deleted message on the festival's page on local social network VKontakte. "The law enforcers promised us and [audiences] all kinds of problems, even if we moved the festival to another location… There is no alternative to cancelation of the festival." The statement was published late on July 8, just hours before the two-day fest.

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Later, the online magazine Grani.ru published a copy of an official warning sent to the festival's organizers by Moscow prosecutors.

The authorities were apparently enraged by the fact that the Ukrainian bands Kingpin and Bluesbreaker, scheduled to perform at the fest, had previously taken part in fundraisers for anti-Russian forces fighting in the ongoing conflict in East Ukraine's Donbass region.

"The situation can lead to mass extremist actions based on racist or ideological hatred and resistance to police officers maintaining public order," reads the document.

In addition to the two Ukrainian bands, the festival's lineup included Finland's Forseen, Belgium's Arkangel, France's Nesseria and several local groups, such as Pale Crow, Noway, Fatium Partybreakers, Obsession and Equal Minds Theory.

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The fest's organizers said they will reimburse those who bought tickets during the presale "out of their own pockets," but they didn't disclose the amount of losses they incurred.

Just a week earlier, Outline, an electronic music festival that was expected to attract 12,000 in Moscow was canceled mere hours before the expected start, with promoters' losses estimated at about $1.5 million, according to the web site rbc.ru.

District authorities said that documents necessary for issuing permissions were filed too late, a claim that the organizers denied.