A group of MEPs from different parties have signed a petition calling for boycott of the tournament in protest at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Crimea and Syria and Russia’s alleged involvement in the Salisbury attack in the UK.
They are led by Rebecca Harms, an expert on Eastern Europe and a member of Parliament’s Greens/EFA group.
She has initiated an open letter to call on EU governments to “stay away” from the Fifa World Cup taking place in Russia in June.
Some 60 MEPs from 16 different member states and five different political groups (Greens/EFA, EPP, S&D, ALDE and ECR) are supporting the call.
Harms told this website, “Vladimir Putin is responsible for the occupation and war in Ukraine. He supports the brutal dictator and torturer Assad.
“The Russian army is responsible for horrendous war crimes in the war in Syria. President Putin is not a good host for the World Cup, while the war in Syria and Ukraine continues.”
She said, “He is not a friendly host as long as he supports right-wing extremist and anti-democratic parties in the EU, and tries to meddle into elections. Democratic governments should not contribute to Putin’s self-staging as the strong man, whom the great and powerful of the world honour.”
She added, “Nobody should forget that three days after the Winter Olympics in Sochi, the Russian army occupied Crimea. This shows how serious he was four years ago about the Olympic idea of mutual understanding between nations.”
The letter, addressed to “all EU governments” states, “We, Members of the European Parliament, call on you, as representatives of the people in the European Union, to join the governments of Iceland and the UK in not attending the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia.
“The Salisbury attack was just the latest chapter in Vladimir Putin’s mockery of our European values: indiscriminate bombings of schools, hospitals and civilian areas in Syria; the violent military invasion in Ukraine; systematic hacking; disinformation campaigns; election meddling; trying to destabilise our societies and to weaken and divide the EU - all this doesn’t make for a good World Cup host.
“While we agree that sport can help build metaphorical bridges, as long as Putin is blowing up real ones in Syria, we cannot pretend this World Cup is just like any other major sporting event. 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.
“And as long as political dissidents and the free press are in constant danger in Russia and beyond, we cannot turn our backs on them to shake Putin’s hand in a football stadium.”
It goes on, “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.”
It concludes, “The world is looking at Europe in these difficult times. Our governments should not strengthen the authoritarian and anti-western path of the Russian President, but boycott the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia and raise their voices for the protection of human rights, of democratic values and peace.”
Other signatories include EPP group member Jerzy Buzek, S&D group deputy Theresa Griffin and the ALDE group’s Petras Auštrevičius.