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Rights campaigners detained at Russia U2 concert: activists

Russian police detained Amnesty International activists and tore down their tents at U2’s first Moscow concert, where frontman Bono sang with an anti-Kremlin rock star, activists said on Thursday.

Police not only forced out of Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium the activists who had been distributing leaflets and collecting signatures but also volunteers of U2’s own charity fund, the ONE campaign against the spread of HIV, Greenpeace Russian director Ivan Blokov said of Wednesday’s concert.

The lead singer of the Irish rock band, Bono, had met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday at his holiday villa near the Black Sea resort town of Sochi as part of his campaign to prevent the spread of HIV.

“Our activities were agreed with U2’s management so we are very much surprised,” Blokov told AFP.

“The tents of Amnesty International, Greenpeace and the ONE foundation were removed by police and we were not allowed to collect signatures and to talk to people,” he added.

Blokov said that the Russian Amnesty International activists had been detained despite volunteers from the organization carrying out similar awareness work during U2’s concert tour across Europe.

Sergei Nikitin, head of Amnesty International’s Russian branch, told the Interfax news agency that five activists from the international rights watchdog activists were detained at the start of the concert late Wednesday.

“I am very sad about what happened. I do not know if Bono knew about what happened to us, but I fear that he did not,” he said.

For the concert finale, U2 also invited Russian rock star turned anti-Kremlin activist Yury Shevchuk onstage for a rendition of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” before the crowd of 75,000 people.

Shevchuk on Sunday had appeared in front of some 2,000 people for a banned concert in central Moscow protesting plans to build a motorway through a forest where he was forced by the security forces to sing without any amplification.