ECHR upholds barring of Russia pop singer from Lithuania citing security concerns

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday upheld Lithuania’s barring of entry to Russian pop singer Philipp Kirkorov, citing concerns about his role as a tool for Russia’s propaganda in former Soviet States.

The court used Lithuania’s Law on the Legal Status of Aliens to adjudicate on the legality of the decision. Article 98 of the law allows authorities to bar entrance to the country if a person represents a threat to security or public order.

According to the court, Lithuanian authorities perceived Kirkorov’s concerts in Crimea as support for Russia’s policy of aggression and annexation of the region. More specifically, his influence on the Russian-speaking population of the region, including Lithuania, was considered a threat to the country’s national security. The authorities, as such, were concerned that Kirkorov’s presence and actions could provoke tensions and instability in the country.

Furthermore, the court used the Seimas’ Resolution on the Approval of the National Security Strategy as an argument, which notes threats to information, such as the spread of propaganda by state and non-state actors, are threats to national security. In particular, the court noted that Kirkorov’s public statements and behavior, including his self-description as Vladimir Putin’s representative on stage, indicate support for Russia’s aggressive attitude in the region, thus justifying the decision to bar him from entry into the country.

Kirkorov, a Russian national, had initially appealed the ban, contending that he was “an artist not interested in politics” and that his songs focused on non-political themes. Kirkorov argued that the ban infringed on his freedom of expression and caused financial harm due to concerts that were canceled in Lithuania.