Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 14.06.2018
On 14 June 2014, the Russian army invading Ukraine shot down a Ukrainian Air Force Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft that was coming in to land at the airport in Luhansk, Ukraine. 49 people were killed, mostly paratroopers who were coming to the rescue of Ukrainians in Luhansk faced with Putin’s invasion army streaming across the border.
Four years later on June 14 is the opening day of the FIFA World Cup football tournament in Russia. While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is still going on, the Putin regime is being rewarded for its aggression with the prestige of being the host for the World Cup.
The World Cup being held in Russia is a disgrace to civilized humanity. To gather a few crumbs of dignity for a mostly Russia-appeasing West, there is a diplomatic boycott of the World Cup underway. The campaign to “Show the Red Card to Putin” is urging a boycott of all matches and events of the World Cup in Russia by diplomats, politicians and government officials.
The idea of a diplomatic boycott of the World Cup in Russia was started by the United Kingdom as a response to Russia’s attack with a nerve agent in Salisbury, England on March 4. The UK was joined by Iceland, then Australia, and then the campaign snowballed. So far, governments of the following countries have pledged not to have diplomats, politicians, or government officials attend any functions, events, or matches of the FIFA World Cup in Russia: the United Kingdom, Iceland, Australia, Finland, Poland, Sweden, Japan, Denmark, Ukraine.
The European Parliament will hold a session on June 14, and will have the opportunity to adopt a resolution on a World Cup in Russia boycott.
Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze is a Ukrainian politician and journalist. She is the Vice-Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine. On June 13, she took to Twitter to write: “It's outrageous hypocrisy to celebrate fair play in the country which does not respect any rules. #Russia wants to fool the world with its staged farce. #BoycottWorldCup2018 #LetMyPeopleGo #FreeSentsov #WorldCup”
The #LetMyPeopleGo and #FreeSentsov hashtags are used by the campaign to free Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and all the Ukrainian political prisoners of war held by Russia. The campaigns to boycott the World Cup in Russia and to free the Ukrainian hostages of Russia are tied together. Oleg Sentsov is on a hunger strike to shame the Russian Federation into releasing all Ukrainian prisoners of conscience. His hunger strike was timed to coincide with the World Cup, in order to shine a light on the cruel reality of Russian aggression at a time when the Putin regime wants only a ‘Potemkin village’ view of life in Russia and no attention paid to Russia’s war against Ukraine.
On June 6, openDemocracy, an independent global media platform, published an appeal to the representatives of countries who are expected to travel to the World Cup football games in Russia. openDemocracy published an open letter appealing for a political and diplomatic boycott of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. The appeal was signed by a long list of intellectuals, journalists, human rights advocates, artists, community leaders, academics, and civil society activists from around the world. World leaders should not attend the World Cup, according to the open letter, because Russia is holding 70 Ukrainian political prisoners, many of whom have been ‘convicted’ under torture and using false evidence. The hunger strikes of Oleg Sentsov, Volodymyr Balukh, and Oleksandr Shumkov were noted. The Russian incitement to hatred of Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars was drawn out for special censure.
Of course, the privilege of hosting the World Cup should have been taken away from Russia immediately after Russia invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014. This did not happen because of the pervasive corruption of FIFA and because of a policy of appeasing Russia and abandoning Ukraine which took hold then among the Budapest Memorandum signatories and the Minsk Agreement guarantors, and which has lasted for over four years.
People all around the world don’t have to wait for politicians and diplomats and government officials to act. They can boycott the FIFA World Cup in Russia as individuals. Don’t watch the matches. Don’t patronize establishments that show matches. Don’t buy goods and services from World Cup sponsors. Don’t give Putin the oxygen he needs to breathe more life into his global war against Western civilization.