Sunday, 22 April 2018 09:20


Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 22.04.2018  
A diplomatic boycott of the FIFA World Cup being held in Russia is gaining momentum. The United Kingdom announced that the Royal Family and government officials would have nothing to do with tournament, after Russia launched a nerve agent attack in Salisbury on March 4. Iceland announced that it would join a diplomatic boycott. Then, on April 20, a group of European Union parliamentarians appealed for a boycott of Russia by politicians and government officials from all 28 member states. 60 Members of the European Parliament asked EU governments to stay away from the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Rebecca Harms is an MEP from the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance and is a member of the Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee. She is a strong supporter of Ukraine, and she is an opponent of Russian war crimes and human rights abuses in occupied Crimea and Donbas. Rebecca Harms initiated the boycott demand, and persuaded 60 of her European Parliament peers from five different political groups to sign an open letter. In a tweet presenting the open letter, Ms Harms wrote: “#Peace and #Sports and #Putin ? Impossible.”
The open letter to all EU governments from the MEPs states: “As long as Putin is illegally occupying Crimea, holding Ukrainian political prisoners and supporting the war in Eastern Ukraine we cannot pretend that this tournament’s host is our welcoming neighbour.” Putin at war with the West feeds off of sporting pageantry for Russia. The open letter states: “Three days after the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Putin invaded Ukraine, and the world watched in dismay. This time, we can make things right by not cheering at his grave violations of human rights at the 2018 World Cup.”
Whatever prestige Russia gains from hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup is a glorification of Russian war atrocities in Crimea and Donbas. The FIFA World Cup is not “just about sports.” It is first and foremost a bestowal of legitimacy by the world community on the murderous Putin regime. Saying “yes” to a prestigious sports competition in Russia is saying “yes” to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Politicians and government officials would be taking the side of Russian aggression should they choose to attend the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Opprobrium should be heaped on any who dare to go to Russia for the tournament. But what can world citizens do? The answer is boycott the matches in Russia and boycott the corporate sponsors of the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Football fans would be taking a substantial risk to their safety should they choose to attend any matches in Russia. England fans, in particular, can expect violence against them. Organized mobs of Russians, led by Russia’s security and intelligence services, attacked England fans at the Euro 2016 tournament in France. After Russia attacked British subjects with a nerve agent in Salisbury on March 4, Russian TV and Internet hate propaganda has been harshly anti-UK. The risk to England fans is so great that a senior government official in Washington said that the US might not be able to come to Britain’s aid if something went wrong at the FIFA World Cup in Russia. But not only England fans should “think twice” about going to Russia. Every world citizen should consider that attendance at the FIFA World Cup in Russia will be taken by the Putin regime as a demonstration of support for how it behaves in world affairs.
World citizens should boycott the sponsors of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Ethical companies have already shunned FIFA and Russia because of corruption and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But some multinational corporations are still willing to associate their names and logos with FIFA and Russian malfeasance, including Coca-Cola, Visa, Adidas, Qatar Airways, Gazprom, Wanda Group, Hyundai, Budweiser, and McDonald’s.
Four years ago, Eugene Melnyk, owner of the Ottawa Senators team of the National Hockey League, led a world-wide effort to boycott sponsors in an effort to get the World Cup moved out of Russia. Eugene Melnyk said (on 28 May 2014) that by invading Ukraine and hosting the World Cup Putin is trampling on the tournament ideals of global unity and peace. This echoed the sentiment expressed by Rebecca Harms and her MEP colleagues in their open letter of 20 April 2018. It’s too late to move the tournament out of Russia now, but it’s not too late to boycott the multinational corporations that are propping up the war propaganda effort that the FIFA World Cup in Russia has become.
It’s not just up to Ukrainian armed forces in the trenches of Donbas to stop Putin at war. It’s up to all of us. No politician or government official should go to Russia for the World Cup. No football fans should attend matches in Russia. No one should buy goods or services from World Cup sponsors until they take their names and logos off the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia. Peace and sports and Putin are an impossible combination. Boycott the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
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