FIFA Worried Over Russia’s Arrest Of Rights Activist

FIFA President, Gianni Infantino speaks during a press conference prior to the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup

FIFA President, Gianni Infantino speaks during a press conference prior to the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament in Moscow. Photo: Alexander NEMENOV / AFP


FIFA said Wednesday they were “deeply concerned” about the detention in Russia of a rights campaigner that drew international condemnation ahead of the World Cup.

Oyub Titiyev was arrested in January on what campaigners believe are trumped up drug charges in the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya.

Titiyev headed the local Grozny office of the award-winning Russian rights organisation Memorial.

The predominantly Muslim republic has turned into a hornets nest of human rights abuses since strongman Ramzan Kadyrov’s rise to power in 2007.

Grozny was also selected as the base camp of World Cup qualifier Egypt.

“FIFA values the important work done by human rights defenders such as Mr. Titiyev,” the world football governing body said in a statement released to AFP.

“Even though we have no indication that the detention of Mr. Titiyev is linked to FIFA’s own operations or the 2018 FIFA World Cup, FIFA is deeply concerned about the situation of Mr. Titiyev.”

FIFA added that it was of “paramount importance that Mr. Titiyev is granted a fair trial in accordance with international standards.”

The statement was issued after Memorial publicised a letter about Titiyev and Egypt it had sent to FIFA boss Gianni Infantino last month.

It was co-signed by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International along with 11 other global rights groups.

“FIFA can make a difference and has a responsibility to do so,” said the letter.

“We call upon FIFA to engage with the Russian authorities on the human rights crisis in Chechnya, in particular on the attack against Titiyev and Memorial.”

FIFA said they had responded to the Memorial letter but did not indicate whether they had raised Chechnya and Titiyev’s case with any Russian officials.

The letter from Memorial said it was concerned “Kadyrov will seek to take advantage of the use of Grozny as a training camp location to boost his credibility and prestige.”

The decision by Egypt to be based in Grozny during the June 14 to July 15 football extravaganza was approved by FIFA a few weeks after Titiyev’s arrest.

Memorial is the last rights organisation to retain a visible presence in Chechnya while remaining critical of Kadyrov.

Its offices in Chechnya and the neighbouring Muslim republic of Ingushetia were also torched in the days following Titiyev’s arrest.

Memorial activists and others who worked in the region say these events are part of a decade-long battle waged by Kadyrov against rights groups.

Such organisations have significantly scaled down their presence in Chechnya since Titiyev’s predecessor Natalia Estemirova was kidnapped and murdered in 2009.

The United States placed Kadyrov on a blacklist of “gross violators of human rights in Russia” in December.

Kadyrov has brushed aside such criticism aside.

“As far as fundamental human rights are concerned, the situation in Chechnya is significantly better than the one in the US,” Russia’s RT news network quoted Kadyrov as saying last month.


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Barcelona break amazing FIFA World Cup record

Barcelona breaking international records too Barcelona had a fantastic season in La Liga and lost just one match throughout the

Barcelona breaking international records too

Barcelona had a fantastic season in La Liga and lost just one match throughout the 38 game campaign.

After winning the title, Barcelona have gone on to break another brilliant record.

The Catalan giants have become the first club ever to have at least one player in every group at the World Cup.

Group A

Suarez Chiellini

Luis Suarez of Uruguay and Giorgio Chiellini of Italy react after a clash during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between Italy and Uruguay at Estadio das Dunas on June 24, 2014 in Natal, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Barcelona will have one player representing them in Group A and that will be their star striker Luis Suarez.

The former Liverpool forward has a history of shocking the world. In 2010, Suarez denied Ghana a place in the semi finals of the World Cup when he saved a shot with his hands in the dying seconds of the match. In 2014, Suarez bit Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini (pictured above).

Group B

VALENCIA, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 26: Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona competes for the ball with Geoffrey Kondogbia (L) and Martin Montoya of Valencia CF during the La Liga match between Valencia and Barcelona at Mestalla stadium on November 26, 2017 in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Andres Iniesta may have played his last game for Barcelona but he won’t be the only man in Group B from La Blaugrana. Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets have all been named in the Spain squad alongside the man who scored the winning goal in 2010.

Group C

BARCELONA, SPAIN – SEPTEMBER 09: Ousmane Dembele of Barcelona looks on after the La Liga match between Barcelona and Espanyol at Camp Nou on September 9, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)

Ousmane Dembele and Samuel Umtiti have been named in France’s squad for this summer’s World Cup.

Dembele was named in the squad ahead of Alexandre Lacazette and Anthony Martial and therefore has a lot to prove.

Group D

Lionel Messi for Argentina

Lionel Messi of Argentina looks on during the Brazil Global Tour match between Brazil and Argentina at Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 9, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Barcelona have two players competing in Group D.

Ivan Rakitic will represent Croatia for the fifth time at an international tournament, his second World Cup.

Lionel Messi’s Argentina are also in Group D and the 30 year old knows that this could be his last chance to get his hands on the most desired trophy in football.

Group E

BARCELONA, SPAIN – JANUARY 08: New Barcelona signing Philippe Coutinho is unveiled at Camp Nou on January 8, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. The Brazilian player signed from Liverpool, has agreed a deal with the Catalan club until 2023 season. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Barcelona have two players in the Brazil squad. Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho will both feature for the 5 time World Champions this summer in Russia.

Coutinho has finally settled into the Barcelona team and he is ready to light up the eyes of the nation once again.

Group F

Marc-Andre ter Stegen

BARCELONA, SPAIN – OCTOBER 18: Marc-Andre ter Stegen of FC Barcelona looks on during the UEFA Champions League group D match between FC Barcelona and Olympiakos Piraeus at Camp Nou on October 18, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Barca have just one player in Group F and that is their goalkeeper, Marc Andre Ter-Stegen. The German stopper may not be his country’s first choice in Russia but he certainly deserves to be especially considering Manuel Neuer hasn’t played for over 6 months.

Group G

BRUGGE, BELGIUM – NOVEMBER 14: Thomas Vermaelen of Belgium looks on during the international friendly match between Belgium and Japan held at Jan Breydel Stadium on November 14, 2017 in Brugge, Belgium. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

The only Barcelona player in group G is former Arsenal captain, Thomas Vermaelen.
The Belgian defender featured 20 times for Barca this season and played an important role in Barca’s unbeaten run as he took the place of the often injured Samuel Umtiti.

Group H

Yerry Mina

Yerry Mina of FC Barcelona plays the ball during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Getafe at Camp Nou on February 11, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

And the man who completes the list is Yerry Mina.

Barcelona signed the Colombian defender during the January transfer window and he makes sure that Barcelona have a player in every single group this summer.

Read more: Tottenham linked midfielder has cleaned out his Barcelona locker

Has Antoine Griezmann decided to stay at Atletico Madrid after Barcelona U-turn?

Russia Prepares For World Cup Drone Attack

  Russia will reportedly deploy jamming devices used in Syria and the war in Ukraine to defend World Cup stadiums


Russia will reportedly deploy jamming devices used in Syria and the war in Ukraine to defend World Cup stadiums against a drone attack.

The threat of terror has been a prime concern for organisers of the June 14 to July 15 football showpiece.

Russia has been hit by a string of suicide bombings since winning the right to host the world’s most-watched event in 2010.

Some have been blamed on militants from the North Caucasus with ties to the Islamic State group in Syria.

Russia’s military bases in the war-ravaged Middle East nation have also been targeted by deadly drone attacks this year.

The possibility of someone using the increasingly ubiquitous devices to drop a bomb on a stadium is one Russia’s defence ministry is not taking lightly.

Moscow’s RBK news site said army chief Valery Gerasimov issued orders in February to set up jamming stations outside the 12 stadiums that would make remotely operating a drone impossible.

A source in the Russian defence ministry told RBK that some of the units are still classified as top secret and only available to the FSB security service.

Others have reportedly been set up in Syria and spotted in east Ukraine by European monitors of the four-year conflict between Kiev forces and Russian-backed separatists.

“Drones are an effective way to deliver two or three kilogrammes (one or two pounds) of TNT, land them on a target and detonate them,” former anti-terror officer Alexei Filatov told RBK.

Russia has set up dozens of no-flight zones and other airspace restrictions for the coming months.

These cover not only the stadiums and 11 host cities but also training grounds and hotels that will be used by the 32 participating national teams.

The transportation ministry has identified 41 locations around which all types of flights — from drones to planes — are prohibited.

These stretch from anywhere between 500 meters (500 yards) and 10 kilometers (six miles).

But operating a drone will be illegal within around 100 kilometers of any of the 11 host cities.

Drone flights over Moscow are permanently banned.

Russian state media have been issuing regular reporters in recent months of state security services conducting raids that led to the capture of alleged terror masterminds.

President Vladimir Putin also took the unusual step in December of personally thanking US counterpart Donald Trump for providing intelligence that helped avert the bombing of a major cathedral in Saint Petersburg.


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Radja Nainggolan left out of Roberto Martinez’s Belgium World Cup squad

Radja Nainggolan: Overlooked once again Radja Nainggolan is a firm fan’s favourite in Belgium. The Roma midfielder is renowned for

Radja Nainggolan: Overlooked once again

Radja Nainggolan is a firm fan’s favourite in Belgium. The Roma midfielder is renowned for his long range screamers and brilliant vision but once again, he will not be going to the World Cup.

The Belgian playmaker turned 30 earlier this month signalling the fact that this may have been his last chance to go to a World Cup.

Nainggolan has played over 200 games for Roma and is certainly one of their most important players, he even scored a brace against Liverpool in the Champions League semi final.

However, Roberto Martinez has left him out of his 23 man shortlist that he will be taking to Russia this summer.

Why isn’t Nainggolan in the squad?

Kristof Terreur was the journalist who broke the news to an English speaking audience and he explained on Twitter:

“Roberto Martínez considers Radja Nainggolan as a number 10, rather than a holding midfielder or a box-to-box. Belgium play in a 3-4-3 without a 10 and De Bruyne as a modern playmaker. Plus: manager not a fan of him smoking a fag from time to time.”

Nainggolan played just twice in Belgium’s record breaking World Cup qualification campaign. He was left out of Martinez’s squad for 7 out of the 10 qualification matches.

Belgium have a fantastic squad with brilliant midfield players. It is understandable that one would class Kevin De Bruyne as a better player than Nainggolan but to leave him out altogether is rather strange.

Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini is likely to be named in the squad ahead of the Serie A superstar which means that Nainggolan will not be able to add to his 30 caps this summer.

Read more: Andres Iniesta bids farewell to Barcelona (photos and videos)

Paul Hirst update on Fellaini, Talisca, Sandro and Man United’s summer plans

Russia Unveils World’s First Floating Nuclear Power Station

Floating power unit (FPU) Akademik Lomonosov is being towed to Atomflot moorage of the Russian northern port city of Murmansk

Floating power unit (FPU) Akademik Lomonosov is being towed to Atomflot moorage of the Russian northern port city of Murmansk on May 19, 2018.  Alexander NEMENOV / AFP


Russia on Saturday unveiled the world’s first floating nuclear power station at a ceremony in the port of the far northern city of Murmansk where it will be loaded with nuclear fuel before heading to eastern Siberia.

Built in Saint Petersburg, the Akademik Lomonosov arrived in Murmansk on Thursday where it was moored in the port and presented to the media on Saturday.

Constructed by the state nuclear power firm Rosatom, the 144 by 30 metre (472 by 98 foot) ship holds two reactors with two 35 megawatt nuclear reactors that are similar to those used to power icebreaker ships.

The 21,000-tonne barge will be towed in the summer of 2019 to the port of Pevek in the autonomous Chukotka region in Russia’s extreme northeast, 350 kilometres (217 miles) north of the Arctic Circle.

The barge can produce enough electricity to power a town of 200,000 residents, far more than the 5,000 live in Pevek, Russia’s northernmost town.

It will be primarily used to power oil rigs as Russia pushes further north into the Arctic to drill for oil and gas and needs electricity in far-flung locations.

Vitaly Trutnev, who is in charge of the construction and operation of floating nuclear power stations at Rosatom, said such units would “supply electricity and heat to the most remote regions, supporting also growth and sustainable development.”

He said the use of such floating reactors can save 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

The barge had initially been scheduled to be fuelled in Saint Petersburg, but that work was moved to Murmansk instead due to concern in countries along the Baltic Sea.


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Russia Supports EU Proposal To Meet In Vienna

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has announced on Wednesday that Russia supported a European Union proposal to hold a

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has announced on Wednesday that Russia supported a European Union proposal to hold a meeting on the Iran nuclear deal in Vienna next week.

According to the country’s media, the deal between Iran and six world powers lifted most international sanctions in 2016 in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear programme, under strict surveillance by the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

European powers this week vowed to shore up the deal after United States President Donald Trump announced Washington’s withdrawal.

Putin Opens New Bridge, Defies The World

  Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has inaugurated a highly controversial bridge linking southern Russia to Crimea. The $3.7bn (£2.7bn) bridge


Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has inaugurated a highly controversial bridge linking southern Russia to Crimea.

The $3.7bn (£2.7bn) bridge has been a flagship political project for Russia as it seeks to cement its hold on to the territory it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.


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Trucker Putin opens Russian bridge to annexed Crimea

KERCH STRAIT, Crimea — Russian President Vladimir Putin is fond of activities that accentuate his manliness, like bare-chested horseback riding,

KERCH STRAIT, Crimea — Russian President Vladimir Putin is fond of activities that accentuate his manliness, like bare-chested horseback riding, not-bare-chested polar exploration, and promoting the Russian limousine and wicked-looking armored car industries. Now he has taken on the role of trucker to unveil a new road-and-rail bridge linking Russia to the annexed Crimean peninsula.

Putin, at the wheel of an orange heavy KAMAZ dump truck drove 12 miles across the bridge from the Kerch Strait. Some Russians are calling it “Putin's bridge,” designed to link Crimea into Russia's transport network. Russia built the bridge in defiance of Ukraine, which said the move showed cynical disregard for international law.

At a ceremony broadcast live on state TV, Putin, dressed in blue jeans, was met by cheering workers on the Crimean side after driving the truck in a convoy of vehicles.

“At last, thanks to your talent, this project, this miracle, has happened,” Putin told the workers.

In Kiev, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said: “The illegal construction of the Kerch bridge is the latest evidence of the Kremlin's disregard for international law.

“It is particularly cynical that its opening is happening on the eve of the latest anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean-Tatar people by the Stalin regime.”

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, drawing sanctions and prompting a deterioration in ties with the West. Many in Russia saw the move as restoring Moscow's rule over a historically Russian region.

Built at a cost of 223 billion roubles ($3.6 billion), the bridge will be the longest dual-purpose span in Europe. The Kremlin said it would be opened to cars on Wednesday, and the rail section was due to be completed at the end of 2019.

“Putin initiated this project himself. Many didn't believe these plans were possible,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday ahead of the ceremony.

“This is an extremely important day from this point of view and in a practical sense and in symbolic terms.”

The road stretch of the bridge was due to be completed by the end of 2018, but the opening was brought forward at Putin's request.

Putin inspected the bridge in March ahead of the presidential election he won by a landslide, saying it was important to have the link to the Black Sea peninsula open for the summer tourist season.

The opening ceremony drew criticism from the West.

“France condemns the construction by Russia of the Kerch Bridge, which deprives Ukraine of full access and the use of its internationally recognized territorial waters,” a French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert in a statement on Tuesday said the “bridge serves as a reminder of Russia's ongoing willingness to flout international law” and said it was an attempt by Russia “to solidify its unlawful seizure and its occupation of Crimea” and impede navigation of the Kerch Strait.

The spokesperson of the European External Action Service said in a statement on Tuesday the bridge was “another violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“The European Union continues to condemn the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia and will not recognize this violation of international law,” the spokesperson said.

Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov

Russia Qualify For Rugby World Cup

FILE PHOTO                                     

FILE PHOTO                                                                                   PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP


Russia had finished third in European qualifying for the World Cup but head to the tournament after Romania, who originally won the section, second-placed Spain and fourth-placed Belgium were all docked points for fielding ineligible players.


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Putin To Open Crimea Mega Bridge Linking Russia

Russian President, Vladimir Putin                                 

Russian President, Vladimir Putin                                                  Alexander ASTAFYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP


Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to unveil Tuesday a highly symbolic bridge linking southern Russia to the Crimea, four years after the peninsula was annexed from Ukraine.

The Crimean Bridge, at 19 kilometres (nearly 12 miles) will be Europe’s longest, overtaking Lisbon’s Vasco da Gama Bridge.

Built at a cost of 228 billion rubles ($3.7 billion), the new structure, connects the southern Krasnodar region with the Crimean city of Kerch, spanning a strait between the Black and Azov seas.

Ukraine has condemned the project, which was personally championed by Putin, saying construction has damaged the environment and that larger ships will be unable to get through to its ports on the Azov Sea.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s security service raided the offices of Russian state media in Kiev and detained one journalist, moves the chief editor of Russia’s RT television suggested were linked to the bridge opening.

The chief editor of the Kremlin-funded channel, Margarita Simonyan, wrote on Twitter that “Kiev decided to take revenge on us for the Crimean Bridge,” after the raids on the offices of RIA Novosti state news agency, which is part of the same media group as RT.

European Union and US sanctions have targeted those involved in building the bridge, principally Putin’s close ally, businessman Arkady Rotenberg, whose company Stroygazmontazh won the construction contract.

The annexation of the peninsula in 2014 was condemned by Kiev and the West as an illegal land grab but applauded in Russia.

Currently the peninsula is hard to reach from southern Russia with long queues of vehicles often forming to board ferries, which cannot always run in winter storms, so the easiest way across is to fly.

Because of blocks imposed by Kiev, in addition to Western sanctions, a large amount of food is currently shipped to the peninsula from Russia, so the bridge will play an important role in reducing the region’s reliance on sea transport.

Crimea is popular among Russians as a summer holiday destination and Putin said in March he would like the bridge to be ready for the season.

Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II first proposed such a bridge, but the outbreak of World War I prevented it going ahead.

Another unsuccessful attempt was made in the 1930s under Joseph Stalin. During World War II the occupying Nazis also began building a bridge, but abandoned the project.

“Putin once more demonstrated that when he carries them out, even the most ambitious plans can be achieved,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists Tuesday.

“Today, both in a practical sense and from a symbolic point of view, is an extremely important day,” he added.

Legacy project 

The four-lane road bridge is opening ahead of schedule as it was due to be completed in December. Once it opens for traffic on Wednesday, it will be able to carry up to 40,000 cars per day.

The railway bridge is not yet finished and has a deadline of the end of 2019. A connecting highway from Kerch to the regional capital of Simferopol is set for completion in 2020.

Ships will be able to pass through an arch of the bridge that is 35 metres (115 feet) high in the deepest part of the strait. It is also designed to withstand ice floes in winter.

The construction is one of Putin’s legacy projects, after the massive renovation of the Black Sea city of Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2012 opening of the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge in the far eastern city of Vladivostok.

In March elections, Russians overwhelmingly voted for Putin to serve a fourth Kremlin term, but an opinion poll by the independent Levada centre found 45 percent of the population think he is failing to ensure that the country’s oil and gas revenues trickle down to benefit ordinary people.

Nevertheless, a Levada poll in March found 70 percent of Russians thought taking Crimea had been beneficial.


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