The world plays football and looks to Russia. Before sport starts, we dedicate this large, diverse, complicated and often misunderstood country to a focus.
It is May 14, 2018, when Oleh Senzow enters hunger strike. In a deposition in far north of Russia and thousands of kilometres from its HeimatstadtSimferopol. The Ukrainian director wants to starve for so long until 63 ukrainischepolitische prisoners are released in Russia. Four years ago, Senzow was arrested on annexed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea by Russian authorities and later sentenced to 20 years in prison for "terrorism". "It is no coincidence that he started DenHungerstreik before start of football World Cup in Russia, to draw attention to as many people as possible," said his SchwesterNatalja chaplain at a press conference in Kiev.
The major sporting event will start exactly one month after Senzows drastic step. And even without hunger strike, question inevitably arises before such an event in an autocracy: How much politics does sport tolerate? In case of football World Cup even more in view of tensions between Russia and West. From Crimean annexation, wars in Donbass and Syria to Russian influence on US election to poison attack on Russian ex-double agent Sergei Skripal, re are enough occasions to look beyond edge of field."Mocking our European values"
Ever since Crimean annexation, demand has been raised repeatedly to boycott World Cup in Russia. This even went so far that britischeAußenminister Boris Johnson compared visit of tournament with visit DerOlympischen Games 1936 under Hitler. "The Insalisbury poison gas attack is only latest chapter of Vladimir Putin's mockery of unserereuropäischen values," it says in an open letter (pdf) of 60 EU parliamentarians. They are calling for WMzumindest to be boycotted diplomatically, as British Undisländische politicians had recently announced.Leonid Volkov, campaign leader of Russian opposition Alexei Navalny © Simone Brunner
Leonid Volkov somebody, who is familiar with boycotts. The 37-year-old GebürtigeJekaterinburger sits in lobby of a hotel in centre of Vienna, Erist travelled to ÖsterreichischeHauptstadt for a presentation about Russian opposition. Volkov is a popular man: For years he has been as Wahlkampfleiterso something like right hand of Russian opposition Alexei Navalny. When Navalny was not admitted to presidential election in March, his followers called for a boycott of vote organized by Volkov. During conversation, he will always look at his mobile phone, because at moment it is increasingly becoming arrests. 21 employees Nawalnys have been sentenced to so-called administrative detention in recent weeks. Volkov was also last detained for several days, even on election day.Russia-Focus on Russia
What do we know about country where world is a guest of football festival? In our focus on Russia, we highlight social, political and economic developments. These articles have been published so far:
Russia: The West and we
City-country gradient: Russia times four
East-West: The Russians and we
Digger: We are among you
Protests to World Cup: a bit of turmoil
The criticism that Navalny has secured Putin a strong election result with boycott has Volkov back. The step was sensible, "because he is just questioning legitimacy of this re-establishment." A boycott of World Cup, on or hand, cannot win much. "Wher whole world is looking at Russia now or not, we are not really interested," says Volkov. "There is only one thing that wirklichinteressiert us: This is Russian electorate." Major protests against government as in previous year, when Navalny mobilized demonstrators in 80 cities, are at least not goal in parallel to football festival: "We are just thinking about what form of political action itc'sconsent," says Volkov. "At same time, we don't want to break World Cup and spoil fans ' mood."
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