Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 04.06.2018
In a sign of global moral turpitude, the FIFA World Cup will be held in Russia starting the next week. It seemed impossible that the Putin regime would keep the prestige of hosting the FIFA World Cup after its crimes against humanity. Russia invaded Ukraine and shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 and started bombing Syrian civilians and intervened maliciously in democratic politics in Europe and in the United States. It is clear that none of that had any effect on the moral conscience of FIFA or its corporate sponsors. Football matches will be played in Russia while Russia wages war against Ukraine. Russia’s armed forces will be attacking defenders and civilians in Donbas, hybrid ethnic cleansing will be carried out against the Crimean Tatars, and over 70 hostages of the Russian regime of state terror will be tormented.
Russia invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014 and has been waging war against the Ukrainian people every day since. Ukraine’s territory of Crimea has been occupied by the Russian invaders, and some of Luhansk region and Donetsk region as well. Bombardments and assaults by Russian armed forces in eastern Ukraine are a regular occurrence. Over 10,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed by the Russian army and by illegal armed formations loyal to the Putin regime. On May 18, the Russians shelled Troitske in Luhansk region and devastated a family: a father and son were killed, and a mother and another son were injured. On May 28, the Russians shelled Zalizne in Donetsk region and killed a 15 year old girl, Daria Kazemirova.
From May 22 to 24, the President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, visited Ukraine. She went to the battlefront in Donbas where Russia is actively invading Ukraine, becoming the first foreign head of state to do so. Afterwards, she said that no one should think that the what is going on in eastern Ukraine is a ‘frozen conflict.’ It is war and it is occupation. President Kaljulaid said: “In Ukraine, during the last week alone, four people, including a 15 year old girl, have been killed in shellings, and another 15 people have been wounded. That's not a frozen conflict – that's war.”
Russia has abducted and is holding hostage over 70 Ukrainians as a way to try to crush resistance to Putin’s invasion and occupation of Crimea and Donbas. Four of the political prisoners of war are on hunger strike against the illegality of the so-called ‘sentences’ which cover for their captivity. Volodymyr Balukh, Oleg Sentsov, Oleksandr Shumkov, and Oleksandr Kolchenko are taking the extreme measure of going on hunger strike to protest against their falsified trials and to demand the release of all Ukrainian prisoners of conscience held by the Russian regime of state terrorism.
On June 1 and 2, “Days of Action” protests were held around the world to demand that Russia release the Ukrainian political prisoners of war. Events were held in Germany, Estonia, Georgia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, Switzerland, France, the United Arab Emirates, Belgium, Czechia, Kuwait, the United Kingdom, Israel, Canada, the United States, Poland, Portugal, Austria, Australia, Greece, and Luxembourg. At least 17 towns and cities in Ukraine participated. There were even brave protestors in Russia who held signs saying “Free Sentsov” and “Stop the war” and who were harassed or arrested by Russian officials for exercising their democratic rights.
On Sunday, June 3, Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pavlo Klimkin, sent letters to his peers asking them to exert pressure on Russia to release all Ukrainian political prisoners. Minister Klimkin called for a unified international response to the crimes of Russia, including the strengthening of sanctions.
It is not even a sanction, but political leaders and government officials from every country should have nothing to do with the FIFA World Cup in Russia. On April 17, 46 Members of the European Parliament, led by Rebecca Harms, signed a letter calling on EU governments to boycott the soccer World Cup tournament in Russia. The actions of Russia, such as the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, England on March 4, is a “mockery of our European values” by Putin, according to the letter. Subsequent to the appeal by the MEPs, the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team concluded that a Russian regular army unit fired the BUK missile that downed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 on 17 July 2014.
The political and governmental boycott of the FIFA World Cup is necessary because, as the letter from the MEPs states, “we cannot pretend this World Cup is just like any other major sporting event.” The death, injury, and suffering inflicted by Russia’s war against Ukraine does not deserve to be rewarded with any prestige for Russia.
There is no justification for a politician or a government official or a diplomat to attend the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Any football fan thinking of going to Russia should reconsider: Putin will turn their love of the sport into a sign of approval for Russia. Any media organization that covers the FIFA World Cup in Russia as if it is a sporting event only will be failing its duty to its audience to inform them about Russia’s war against Ukraine and crimes against humanity.
Boycott the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Boycott the corporate sponsors of this travesty. Do not give Putin at war the oxygen he needs to continue Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine.