Kremlin Counters Boycott By Georgian Singer With Warning for Russian Artists

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Moscow, Russia

MOSCOW -- A standoff between Russia and Georgia has had an impact on the two countries' touring activities as prominent Georgian jazz singer Nino Katamadze said she would no longer perform in Russia, while the Kremlin warned Russian artists planning to tour Georgia about possible security issues.   

Relations between the neighboring nations, which have been rocky over the last decade and a half, deteriorated in late June when a Russian legislator visiting Georgia's capital of Tbilisi sat in the chair of the country's parliament and made statements questioning Georgia's territorial integrity.   

Sergei Gavrilov, a member of the State Duma, the lower chamber of Russian parliament, specifically referred to the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as not being part of Georgia, outraging many of the country's citizens.  

Many Georgians viewed the situation as interference in their country's internal affairs and took to the street. In one way or another, protests are still going on throughout Georgia, while prominent local figures have spoken out about the situation.

In a Facebook post, Katamadze announced that her performance at Usadba Jazz outdoor music festival last month would be the last time she played Russia. She called Russia "an occupying force" and president Vladimir Putin her personal "enemy." According to Katamadze, she never participated in any events financed by Russian authorities.

The Facebook post caused a strong reaction in Russia and Georgia, and Katamadze restricted access to it to friends only, prompting some media to report that the post had been deleted. Later, she reinstated public access to the message.

While many in Georgia have offered support, Kremlin-friendly media in Russia reacted to her statements with incredulous and condescending remarks.

"[Did she think] crowds of her fans will take to the streets protesting against Russian authorities?" Channel One host Vladimir Solovyov said on his Twitter account.

"How are we going to live now?" Rossiya 1 news presenter Olga Skabeyeva added sarcastically.

Meanwhile, some Russian singers sided with authorities, accusing Katamadze of hypocrisy and pointing out that she played many lucrative gigs in Russia over the years, regardless of periods of animosity between the two countries.

"If you make money here, if this feeds you, why would you say dirty things [about Russia]," veteran singer Lev Leshchenko was saying by the web site of TV network Tsargrad.

News website Lenta.ru reported that, contrary to Katamadze's statements about never receiving payments from Russian authorities, she and her band were paid last September by local authorities in Samara for performing at a city celebration. According to the report, the show's promoter collected 2.8 million rubles ($44,100) from the local government, but it's not known how much of that amount was actually paid to the singer and her band.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov suggested that Russian artists should avoid touring Georgia because of security concerns, TASS news agency reported.

So far, however, there has been no information about cancellation of Georgian tours by Russian artists.

Katamadze's next Russian show was supposed to be held at Moscow's Crocus City Hall next month, and the venue said the singer will be subject to penalties for canceling the concert.


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