Ever since Russia annexed a part of the Ukrainian territory and started supporting separatist militants in the military conflict against the country’s armed forces in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, the idea of boycotting the 2018 World Cup has been mentioned a number of times not just by the Ukrainian government and public at large, but also various foreign officials and leaders. Let us look at who has voiced this idea in Europe and worldwide, and how exactly a boycott of the football tournament could take place.
The first calls for boycott of the 2018 World Cup began appearing in the European media outlets as early as December of last year. Then, Rebecca Harms, a member of the European parliament from the Green Party, praised the then President of Germany Joachim Gauck, who refused to attend the Winter Olympics held in Sochi in 2014, and suggested that world leaders should follow the example and boycott the 2018 World Cup. On 17 April, it was reported that 46 members of the European Parliament signed an open letter calling on their governments to boycott the world championship.
After the attempted murder of a former KGB spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yuliya in the English town of Salisbury, the government of the United Kingdom began suggesting retaliatory measures against Russia, which is believed to be the perpetrator of the attack. The British foreign minister Boris Johnson came forward to claim that “it would be extremely difficult to imagine the British delegation at the World Cup, which is to be held in Russia”. In the end, it was revealed that neither the British royal family, nor any member of the government of the United Kingdom will be attending the major sports event this summer. Later, it was reported that the Australian delegation to Russia will be represented only by the ambassador to Russia, while all the senior members of the government will not be present at the tournament.
Moreover, the newly appointed foreign minister of the German Federal Republic announced as early as June that his government will abstain from attending the World Cup. The highest leadership of the Finnish and the Icelandic governments will not be present either.
At the same time, it is barely surprising that Mariya Zakharova, the official representative of Russia’s foreign ministry came forward to suggest that boycotting the Russia World Cup is actually the main goal for Western countries. However, she did not go as far as explaining why Western countries would perceive such a goal.