Staunton, November 13 – Yesterday, Vladimir Putin said that despite current problems with stadiums in various parts of Russia, “everything will be done on time and in a quality way” before the 2018 World Cup competition begins (polit.ru/article/2016/11/12/staduim/). But what he is also likely to do is something he didn’t say: increase repression just as he did before Sochi.
Some of that will be directed at Russia’s soccer louts, and given their bad behavior in the past, many will welcome their suppression. But much of it will extend to Russian society more generally, an unwelcome development and one that all those prepared to allow the Kremlin to retain its right to hold the competition should remember and be held accountable for.
Russian commentator Maksim Sobesky warns about this in a new commentary on the Kasparov.ru portal. He writes that “Putin must show his strength” against the soccer louts because “he doesn’t intend to back down.” Thus, he will stage a broad crackdown against Russian fans and Russians in general (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5825BB72921C9).
According to Sobesky, the Kremlin leader has already issued an order on what will be permissible and thus will deploy the notorious Article 282 “against Russians.” By 2018, he continues, “our government will rid itself” of people it had been supporting in Marseilles and elsewhere.
The Putin regime will then send “the flower of the nation into jails” where they will be transformed into serious criminal elements.” He does not say but he could that Putin’s crackdown in advance of the Sochi Olympiad led to the FSB-orchestrated flight of Islamist elements in the North Caucasus to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
But even though Putin’s likely “preparations” for the World Cup are unlikely to have such dire consequences for the international community, they will be serious for the future of Russia. Along with Russia’s doping scandals and weak infrastructure, this prospect is nonetheless something that should prompt the world to shift the competition to another country.