Last week, Husky, a popular Russian rapper, was detained by police for singing to his fans in the street – one of the latest in a growing list of Russian musicians suffering from a crackdown by authorities.
His arrest in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar came after several of his shows in different cities had been cancelled through the intervention of the authorities, including the prosecutor’s office.
Husky’s concert in Krasnodar was scheduled for November 21, but the venue owners pulled out at short notice after a warning from the local prosecutor’s office that Husky’s lyrics were about to be “checked for extremism.” Husky’s managers moved the concert to The Bounce Club, but just before the performance started, the electricity got cut off. Eventually, Husky went outside where his fans gathered, jumped on the roof of a car, and started singing. “He did it out of respect [for his fans]…he began singing and everyone started singing along,” said his lawyer, Alexey Avanesyan, who was present. The police pulled Husky off the car within a minute and dragged him off.
Husky spent the night in custody. On November 22, a court in Krasnodar sentenced him to 12 days detention on charges of “minor hooliganism.” Four days later, the court suddenly annulled the sentence and Husky was released. Margarita Simonyan, chief editor of RT, the Russian government’s television network, tweeted that Husky’s release was the result of a few Kremlin officials personally intervening in the case and that “when two or three people at the President’s Office are outraged by a particular occurrence, things usually turn out well.”
Though Husky did not have to serve his full sentence, alleged interference by high level officials makes poor substitute for the rule of law and does not change the fact that fundamental free speech in the form of artistic freedom is being stifled. Husky’s case is one of many in what appears to be a crackdown on rappers and other outspoken musicians in Russia. Starting October, at least seven young performers, most of them rappers, had concerts cancelled under different pretexts or as a result of law enforcement raids. “This is not just about Husky but about all of us and our future,” said Oxxymiron, one of Russia’s top rappers who spoke out in support of Husky. He is right.