Influential US and British actors and musicians including Oscar winners Kevin Spacey and Kelvin Kline, the Pet Shop Boys, Jude Law, Sienna Miller, Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Tom Stoppard and Samuel West, have been put on a “blacklist” of artists banned in Belarus.
A list apparently drawn up by the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus has been leaked to leading opposition figures including website Charter97. Sources inside State TV have not denied the blacklist is in force.
Jude Law, Sienna Miller, Sir Ian McKellen and Samuel West have all been added to the list after they performed at an Index on Censorship event at the Young Vic with dissident theatre group the Belarus Free Theatre on 5 December last year. Kevin Kline and Kevin Spacey took part in a benefit for the company in New York, and recorded YouTube messages in support of free expression in Belarus (http://www.youtube.com/user/belarusfreetheatre#p/u).
Sir Tom Stoppard has supported the Belarus Free Theatre for many years and has been a vocal opponent of President Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule. Currently, the secret police (KGB) has an arrest warrant out for Belarus Free Theatre co-founder Nikolai Khalezin.
The official government position is that such a list does not exist. The head of the internet media department of the Belarusian Information Ministry, Vladimir Yadrintsev, told RIA Novosti that reports of the blacklist were “a clear provocation.” He added: “The Information Ministry did not initiate this”.