By Andrew Warshaw
March 21 – European governments are lining up behind Britain in considering a diplomatic snub of the World Cup in protest at the poisoning of a former double agent and his daughter on British soil that is being widely blamed on Russia.
As the Russians continue to laugh off any suggestion that they were involved in the attempted murder by nerve agent of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Poland said it would definitely take a stance while Sweden, Iceland and Denmark all released statements saying they were weighing up their options.
Dignitaries usually attend the opening ceremony and sometimes major fixtures but last week Britain announced no government ministers or royals would not attend the World Cup at all after Prime Minister Theresa May said her government had found that Russia was “culpable” of the attack – a charge Moscow vehemently denies.
Polish President Andrzej Duda’s office said he will be skipping the tournament’s opening ceremony on June 14 in Moscow while Iceland’s national broadcaster RUV said the foreign ministry was consulting with its “allies” about a joint diplomatic boycott. Swedish foreign ministry spokesman Per Enerud told AFP “this is one of many ideas we are looking at” and Denmark said the same step was under discussion.
Meanwhile the United States joined Germany and France in voicing support for Britain’s position and blaming Russia for the attack which was carried out with a secret nerve agent designed specifically for assassinations.
Russian officials reacted to the growing diplomatic protest with a mixture of indignation and sarcasm. “You can only feel sorry for Iceland’s officials – they would have loved to root for their team,” parliament’s sports committee chief Mikhail Degtyarev said. “It is sad to see Iceland become the fodder of an information and political war against Russia.”
England will more than likely send a team to Russia, stopping short of boycotting the competition itself, but a close associate of Chelsea’s oligarch owner Roman Abramovich says England, France, Spain and Germany should all stay at home.
In a letter to The Times, Christian Purslow, managing director of the club until last year says the four Nato allies should quit the tournament to show the Russian public what the world thinks of President Putin.
Chelsea were the first top-flight English club to be transformed by Russian money and Purslow wrote: “If Europe’s three leading football nations who bookmakers expect to be semi-finalists in the World Cup – Germany, France and Spain – were to decide that an unprovoked nerve agent attack by Russia on a Nato ally merited joining England in a boycott it would destroy the credibility and attraction of the tournament and hurt Putin’s popularity more than any economic or diplomatic sanction.”
“Our government could not target a measure which would be better guaranteed to make clear to the Russian people what their leader is up to and what right-thinking citizens of the world feel about it.”
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