MEPs renew call for diplomatic boycott of World Cup

MEPs renew call for diplomatic boycott of World Cup
By Damon Embling

Move wins support of around 60 politicians from 16 member states

As football fans gather in Russia for the World Cup, MEPs are renewing calls for a diplomatic boycott of the sporting event.

They argue, in their words, that "governments should not strengthen the authoritarian and anti-western path of the Russian President."

A boycott call by Rebecca Harms has been signed by around 60 MEPs, from 16 member states.

"He (Putin) is very much attacking the West as such and the values of the West. He bought the World Cup to Russia," said the German Green MEP.

"There's a lot of hidden corruption behind this. And I think Western politicians should not give legitimacy to this World Cup coup of Putin."

It is not without precedence. In 1980, dozens of countries boycotted the Moscow Summer Olympics to protest the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

One MEP from Poland has signed the latest boycott call.

"Our representatives cannot go to Russia and make very nice selfies with Putin because it's de-facto a sign of acceptance but as democrats in Russia, those who fight for democracy, say it is a reinforcement for him," said Róża Thun.

Ukrainian authorities have called for a boycott of the World Cup, with some lawmakers even wanting domestic channels to ban coverage.

And, on Thursday, the European Parliament demanded that the Russian authorities "immediately and unconditionally" release Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov and "all other illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia and on the Crimean peninsula."

All this amid other tensions with the West, including the spy poisoning scandal in the UK.

Róża Thun commented: "Sport should unite people and I hope it does unite but that doesn't mean that it should serve to a politician like Putin to give him a better image that what he is.

"So a diplomatic boycott would be a very clear signal that us, democratic societies of the European Union, do not accept the authoritarian regime in Russia."

The tournament takes place in 11 cities until the 15th of July.

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