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Russia Using World Cup To Gloss Over Its Human Rights Record: Activists

FIFA President Gianni Infantino insists world football's governing body is engaging Russia on the issue

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People play soccer at the Red Square during the 2018 soccer World Cup in Moscow, Russia, June 19, 2018.
People play soccer at the Red Square during the 2018 soccer World Cup in Moscow, Russia, June 19, 2018. VOA

Human rights campaigners say Russia is using the glitz of the World Cup to try to gloss over its deteriorating human rights record — and they want tournament organizer FIFA to use its leverage to force change.

The 12 Russian host cities have enjoyed a World Cup makeover, as Russia presents a friendly face and photogenic scenery to hundreds of thousands of visitors. Tanya Lokshina, Russia program director at Human Rights Watch, is urging visitors to dig a little deeper.

“Our message to the fans is: Take a little time and learn more about the human rights crisis in Russia today, about what is, in fact, happening under the tournament’s glitter.” She described the situation as the biggest crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union.

“Russian citizens are denied their rights to speak freely, to protest freely, and people actually go to jail for posting online things like ‘Crimea is not Russia.'”

 Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov looks out from a defendants' cage as he listens to the verdict at a military court in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, Aug. 25, 2015.
Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov looks out from a defendants’ cage as he listens to the verdict at a military court in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, Aug. 25, 2015. VOA

Among those locked up is Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who criticized Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and is serving a 20-year jail term on terrorism charges.

In the Russian republic of Chechnya, Oyub Titiev, director of the human rights group Memorial, has been detained on drug charges, which his supporters said are false and politically motivated.

Before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the release of several political prisoners. Campaigners are hoping he may repeat the gesture.

“We got a confirmation from FIFA that the organization’s leadership is engaging on the issue and hoping for a positive resolution,” Lokshina said.

Oyub Titiyev, the head of regional branch of Russian human rights group Memorial, attends a court hearing in Grozny, Russia, March 6, 2018.
Oyub Titiyev, the head of regional branch of Russian human rights group Memorial, attends a court hearing in Grozny, Russia, March 6, 2018. VOA

FIFA President Gianni Infantino insists world football’s governing body is engaging Russia on the issue.

“Concrete progress has been made in terms of human rights and the way we are dealing with human rights questions. Also through football and through an event like the World Cup,” he said in a recent interview.

On the opening day of the World Cup, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was arrested after staging a protest outside the Kremlin, calling for an investigation into the torture and disappearance of several gay men in Chechnya. In 2007, Tatchell was attacked in Moscow by neo-Nazis and suffered partial brain damage.

A short walk from the Kremlin lies Diversity House, set up to provide a safe space for LGBTQ and other minorities to watch the games. Pavel Klymenko, of the equality campaign group FARE Network that organized the facility, said it is intended to make a political point.

Russian police detane gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, center, as he holds a banner that reads "Putin fails to act against Chechnya torture of gay people" near Red Square in Moscow, Russia, June 14, 2018.
Russian police detane gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, center, as he holds a banner that reads “Putin fails to act against Chechnya torture of gay people” near Red Square in Moscow, Russia, June 14, 2018. VOA

“This house is a way of saying to everyone — to the footballing world, to the Russian society — that minorities are part of the game, part of society.”

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The fear is that once the fans and footballers return home, Russia’s human rights crackdown may intensify. (VOA)

Next Story

Russian Parliament Plans to Bring a Bill to Ship Devices With Pre-Installed Russian Apps

The government will also publish, per each device type, a list of Russian software that equipment vendors will need to include on devices sold in Russia

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Devices
The government will also publish, per each device type, a list of Russian software that equipment vendors will need to include on Devices sold in Russia. Pixabay

Aiming to protect Russian software firms from being “abused” by foreign technology companies, the Russian Parliament is now mulling to bring a bill that will force all Electronic Devices sold in the country, including smartphones, computers and smart TVs, to ship with apps from Russian tech firms pre installed in them.

If the bill is approved, the Russian government will publish a list of electronic devices that will need to comply with this new law. However, devices that don’t run a complex operating system OS or custom software will be exempted.

According to lawmakers, “the bill will protect the interests of Russian Internet companies and will reduce the abuse by large foreign companies, working in the field of information technology”, ZDNet reported recently.

Devices
Aiming to protect Russian software firms from being “abused” by foreign technology companies, the Russian Parliament is now mulling to bring a bill that will force all Electronic Devices sold in the country, including Laptops, smartphones, computers and smart TVs, to ship with apps from Russian tech firms pre installed in them. Pixabay

The government will also publish, per each device type, a list of Russian software that equipment vendors will need to include on devices sold in Russia.

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The firms who fail to comply would be eligible for fines of up to 200,000 rubles or roughly $3,100, and an eventual ban, following repeated offences, the report added. (IANS)