The Nature and Sources of [the] Terrorist Threat in Russia: An “Armed Underground” or ISIL?

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(PONARS Eurasia – Mariya Omelicheva, Lawrence Markowitz – November 2018) Mariya Y. Omelicheva is Professor of National Security Strategy at the National War College of the National Defense University. Lawrence P. Markowitz is Professor of Political Science at Rowan University. [Article also appeared at ponarseurasia.org/memo/armed-underground-or-isis-nature-sources-terrorist-threat-russia] (PONARS Policy Memo) The 2018 FIFA World Cup shifted the attention of terrorism watchers to […]

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RUSSIALINK: “7 Key Bills of the Russian Duma’s Spring Session” – Moscow Times

Russian State Duma Building file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – July 27, 2018) Friday marks the last day of the Russian State Duma’s spring session, in which lawmakers in the lower house of parliament considered a total of 900 bills, of which 343 bills were passed. Here is a list of the most resonant bills that lawmakers approved in the spring session. Counter-sanctions The Kremlin […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Pussy Riot claims on-field protest at World Cup final” – AP

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

“… Pussy Riot has claimed responsibility for four people who ran onto the field and disrupted the World Cup final. … [tweeting] that the disruption was a protest.  … four people … charged onto the field in the 52nd minute … in what appeared to be old-fashioned police uniforms … [They] were tackled to the ground by stewards. … ‘Hello […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Patriotism Abounds After Russia Exits World Cup” – Moscow Times

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Daniel Kozin – July 9, 2018) Tears, pride and regret were the dominant emotions after Russia’s dramatic exit from the World Cup on Saturday. In the rollercoaster match against Croatia, the team was on the cusp of progressing to the semifinals of the competition for the first time since 1966 but had its fairytale run […]

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NEWSLINK: “Russia’s performance in World Cup – and the country’s history – are raising doping suspicions” – Los Angeles Times/Kevin Baxter

Medical Symbol with Pole, Serpents, Wings, adapted from image at lanl.gov

“Russia will meet Croatia in the quarterfinals Saturday in Sochi, where it will play in a stadium built to stage the opening and closing ceremonies of those now-discredited Winter Olympics. And though there is no evidence of any wrongdoing with the soccer team, its performance here — including a round of 16 win over Spain, the World Cup champion eight […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Putin Says World Cup Has Broken Stereotypes About Russia” – Reuters

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

“… Russia’s host nation status had been met with resistance by some in the West … suggest[ing] the tournament could be unsafe and play into the hands of Putin … accused by Washington of conducting ‘malign activities’ around the world. … the month-long tournament … has so far been without major security incidents. Concerns about racism and hooligan violence … […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “The real World Cup losers: The Russian people” – Washington Post/Frank A. Guridy, Tinatin Japaridze

Men Sitting Around Long Oval Boardroom Table, File Photo of FIFA Officials Meeting with Vladmir Putin

“… Putin’s bet that the World Cup will produce a win for his government is a big gamble. The global political climate of 2018 is very different than the environment that existed when Russia was awarded the World Cup eight years ago, or even four years ago when Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimean Peninsula after hosting the 2014 […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Why the World Cup is bigger than Putin; ‘I can write about the genius of French forward Kylian Mbappé, knowing the FT is also covering Russian elite corruption'” – Financial Times/Simon Kuper

File Photo of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler Riding in Convertible

“…  the Russian World Cup isn’t Berlin all over again. First, Putin isn’t as evil and ambitious as Hitler. Second, he’s a much better-known quantity than Nazism was in 1936. Hitler at that point had said disturbing things but few foreigners took him either literally or seriously. He hadn’t lifted a finger against other countries. Many Jews were still living […]

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Team Russia Scores Surprise Goal At 2018 World Cup: National Unity

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Tony Wesolowsky – July 2, 2018 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/team-russia-strikes-unexpected-goal-national-unity/29333415.html) Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev secured the biggest upset of the 2018 World Cup, and arguably in Russia’s soccer history, with his two massive saves in a penalty shoot-out with Spain on July 1. And the euphoric after-party he has sparked […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Moscow’s Bread and Circus” – Kennan Institute/Maxim Trudolyubov

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

“…. Increasing taxes, raising the retirement age, even starting another war because Russia is doing so well in soccer are the recurring jokes on Moscow’s streets. People compete in creativity in trying to imagine what else the government can do to them while everyone is distracted by the World Cup. One of the jokes is that Putin will now present […]

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Russia’s World Cup Team Bucks Multiethnicity Seen On Swiss, Other Teams

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Pete Baumgartner – June 30, 2018 – article also appeared at rferl.org/a/russia-world-cup-team-no-multiethnicity-swiss/29329228.html) While there is a splash of ethnic diversity on virtually every team playing in soccer’s 2018 Russia World Cup, many cite the Swiss national team for setting the standard for being multicultural. Known affectionally by its fans […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Can we believe what we see at Putin’s World Cup?” – San Diego Union Tribune/Mark Zeigler

Men Sitting Around Long Oval Boardroom Table, File Photo of FIFA Officials Meeting with Vladmir Putin

“… [when] FIFA’s 22-person executive committee awarded both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups … victories by Russia and Qatar … risky bids, were met with immediate speculation of vote bartering and outright bribery. … rumors of a Russian scheme to bribe referees on Spain’s behalf in the 2010 World Cup …. FIFA sent investigators to look into it … […]

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The World Cup in Russia: A Boon for Public Diplomacy; As Richard Arnold explains, hosting the FIFA World Cup has been a PR coup for Russia, mostly living up to official expectations (though with some caveats), and, at least so far, a popular success.

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

(PONARS Eurasia – ponarseurasia.org – Richard Arnold – June 26, 2018) Richard Arnold is Associate Professor of Political Science at Muskingum University, where he teaches courses in comparative politics and international relations, including courses on Russian politics and the politics of sport. He is the author of Russian Nationalism and Ethnic Violence: Symbolic Violence, Lynching, Pogrom, and Massacre (2016, Routledge) […]

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NEWSLINK: “Trump catches World Cup fever…but will he watch final with Putin?” – Washington Time/S.A. Miller

Donald Trump

“… The White House is planning a Trump-Putin meeting in Moscow that likely would occur around the same time as the World Cup final July 15. …”

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Why are Russians so stingy with their smiles?” – The Conversation/Samuel Putnam

File Photo of Russian Crowd, with Russian Flag Being Waved

“… In our psychology research, we’ve noticed a striking difference in how often people smile in the United States when compared to Russia. To Americans, it might be easy to assume that this says something about Russians – that they’re an unfriendly, callous people.  … that’s not the case ….  there are two likely explanations …. Different cultures have different […]

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RUSSIALINK: “U.S. Requests Doping Tests of Russian World Cup Team” – Moscow Times

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – June 22, 2018) The United States reportedly requested results from Russian footballers’ doping tests following a sudden improvement in performance during the World Cup. FIFA vowed rigorous doping tests at the tournament following allegations that Russia ran a state-run doping program in past competitions, a charge Moscow has denied. The World Cup host country started […]

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World Cup May Have Helped Russia But It hasn’t Boosted Putin

File Photo of Putin Sitting at Desk, Looking Down, Writing, During Call-In Show, adapted from screenshot of video at kremlin.ru

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, June 24, 2018) Many commentators in both Russia and the West have suggested that the World Cup has helped Russia to overcome much of the opprobrium it has suffered as a result of its invasion of Ukraine, its meddling in elections in Western countries and in general its disruptive behavior. And it […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “5 ways the football World Cup has transformed Moscow – for now” – Deutsche Welle

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

“‘This is a Moscow I don’t know’ has become the rallying cry of the Russian capital’s residents since the World Cup started. The tournament has seemingly pressed pause on laws – and has changed the city’s public space. …. In some of Russia’s host cities … reports of banners being hung and large fences being built to cover crumbling buildings. […]

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NEWSLINK: “The World Cup Is Fun. Except for the Russians Being Tortured.” – New York Times/Alexey Kovalev

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

“… Putin has given the Russian security services free rein in the lead-up to the World Cup.  …”

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As World Watches Russia, Opposition Seeks To Score With Pension Protests

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Carl Schreck – June 20, 2018) – also appeared at rferl.org/a/russia-world-cup-russia-opposition-pension-protests/29306847.html) As World Cup fever mounts in Russia, opponents of a government plan to raise the retirement age find themselves jostling for political position, with a handful of protests announced against the proposed measure set to coincide with soccer’s centerpiece […]

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RUSSIALINK: “A Butterfly on the Football Field” – Moscow Times/Michele A. Berdy

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

“In honor of World Cup 2018, I thought I ought to offer the basics of football slang. Here the key word is ‘basics.’ Decades of living next to a stadium – the roar of the crowd, the traffic, the mounted police, the rowdy fans, the loud celebrations, and the tendency to use any courtyard as a public toilet – have […]

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U.S. Warns Of ‘Terrorism’ Risk During World Cup In Russia

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – June 16, 2018 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/us-warns-terrorism-risk-world-cup-venues-stadiums-train-stations-airports-russia/29292547.html) The U.S. State Department is warning that “terrorists” may target World Cup venues in Russia, which is hosting the monthlong soccer tournament, but it did not point to any specific threat. In a travel advisory issued late on June 15, the department […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “In World Cup’s Shadow, Layoffs and Anger at Russian Factory” – AP/New York Times

Large Mother Russia Statue Near Volgograd

“[At] Volgograd’s … Red October steelworks … many … were temporarily laid off because of the World Cup. … aggravat[ing] troubles at the struggling factory, prompting angry workers to plan a protest timed for the … World Cup …. Authorities are apparently trying to head off trouble through pressure and promises of cash. Welcome to the daily realities of … […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “An outrageous penalty; As the World Cup begins, Russia should free Oleg Sentsov; A film-maker locked up for protesting against the annexation of Crimea is on hunger strike” – The Economist Editorial

Oleg Sentsov file photo, adapated from image at csce.gov

“… Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian film director serving a 20-year sentence … in Siberia. … was jailed for protesting against … Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the war Russia’s president unleashed in eastern Ukraine …. Sentsov started a hunger strike demanding the release of all 64 Ukrainian political prisoners from Russian jails. The … World Cup … June 14th […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Aging and Inexperienced: Why Russia’s World Cup Squad Is Doomed to Fail; Critics say the team is drawn from the worst generation in the history of Russian football” – Moscow Times/Evan Gershkovich

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

“… When the final whistle sounded, jeers and whistles rang out from the stands … filled almost entirely with home supporters.  Going into its first domestic World Cup, Russia has now gone without a win in its last seven matches. … drawing against Turkey … losing to Austria — both of which failed to qualify — in its final two […]

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RUSSIALINK TRANSCRIPT: “2018 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony; Vladimir Putin took part in the 2018 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony at Luzhniki Stadium” – KremlinRu

Men Sitting Around Long Oval Boardroom Table, File Photo of FIFA Officials Meeting with Vladmir Putin

(Kremlin.ru – June 14, 2018) The ceremony was also attended by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, heads of state and government of Abkhazia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Moldova, Panama, Paraguay, Rwanda, South Ossetia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, and Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the […]

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NEWSLINK: “World Cup dream is ‘sportswashing’ Russia’s appalling record” – Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

Ukraine Air Crash Scene with Uniformed Security Personnel, Flames, Smoke

“In 2010 when this tournament was awarded, no one thought Russia would suddenly become a bastion of human and civil rights, though it’s worth reflecting on all that’s happened since then. There’s not just the annexation of Crimea, the war in Ukraine and the concerns about US election meddling. Or just the controversy surrounding the nerve agent attack on the […]

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NEWSLINK: “Exclusive: U.S. counterspy warns World Cup travelers’ devices could be hacked” – Reuters

Stylized Artist's Depiction of Shadowy Figures in Dark Coats and Dark Hats, One Carrying a Briefcase

“The top U.S. counterintelligence official is advising Americans traveling to Russia for football’s World Cup beginning this week that they should not take electronic devices because they are likely to be hacked by criminals or the Russian government. … William Evanina, an FBI agent and the director of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center, warned World Cup travelers ….”   […]

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NEWSLINK: “The World Cup Is Coming To Russia, Which Means Stray Dogs Are Being Slaughtered” – Deadspin/Karim Zidan

File Photo of Dog at Animal Shelter Jumping Up on Person in Winter Clothing, With Beseeching Look

“… The culling of stray animals has even caused a schism within the Russian population. 1.8 million people signed a petition against the killing of stray animals, while protests are being held in several cities. Even notable Russian actors have spoken out against the campaigns. However, while the brutal slaughter of stray animals has been met with significant domestic and […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Putin says he’s making Russia great again. In reality, it’s crumbling; The country has been bolstered by European disunity but that obscures a multitude of ills” – The Spectator (UK)/Owen Matthews

Kremlin and River

“[Despite the World Cup and] … patriotic hype over grand multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects like a new bridge to Crimea and shiny stadiums, Russia is crumbling. … [Russia’s own statistics indicate] 68,100 schools in 2000; 41,100 now. … 10,700 hospitals [when Putin took power, now reduced to] 5,400. … living space declared unfit for habitation has more than doubled … […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russians taught how to smile ahead of World Cup” – The Telegraph (UK)/Alec Luhn

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

“Russia has spent $12bn building stadiums, airports and roads in 11 cities for the World Cup, but it may be just as big of a challenge to put a smile on … faces …. [T]housands of volunteers and public transportation employees have been undergoing special lessons about smiling, being polite and saying key phrases in English. The results have been […]

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NEWSLINK: “David Dimbleby on a Russia in crisis and the holes in President Putin’s defence” – The Times (UK)

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

“With coercion and cunning propaganda, the president has kept Russians in line. But on a pre-World Cup visit David Dimbleby finds money is running out and the Kremlin’s cultivation of a siege mentality is starting to backfire”

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NEWSLINK: “Are Russia’s soccer fans dangerous? In the West, many people are wondering if mass brawls among fans will mark the World Cup in Russia” – Deutsche Welle

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

“Russian fans have a negative image in Europe, with many remembering the riots in Marseille during the 2016 European Cup.”  

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RUSSIALINK TRANSCRIPT: “[Putin] Video address on the occasion of the 2018 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony”

Russia Map

(Kremlin.ru – June 8, 2018) [Russian video: kremlin.ru/events/president/news/57706] President of Russia Vladimir Putin: To all football fans and the greatest football teams on the planet – welcome! Welcome to all who have already arrived in Russia, and to those who are planning to take part in this landmark international event – the FIFA World Cup. It is with immense joy […]

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NEWSLINK: “How Russian Meddling Gave Us This Year’s World Cup; Long before anyone had heard of Christopher Steele or a “p[**] tape,” there was an investigation into FIFA corruption” – New York Times/Ken Bensinger

Men Sitting Around Long Oval Boardroom Table, File Photo of FIFA Officials Meeting with Vladmir Putin

“… In stark contrast to England, Russia appeared profoundly unqualified to host a monthlong tournament expected to draw well over three million spectators. For starters, Russia didn’t have a great soccer tradition; its team hadn’t even qualified to play in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, thanks to an embarrassing loss to Slovenia. More important, it didn’t have adequate stadiums […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “To prepare for soccer’s World Cup, Russia is killing stray dogs. Animal-rights activists are fighting back” – Los Angeles Times/Sabra Ayres

File Photo of Dog at Animal Shelter Jumping Up on Person in Winter Clothing, With Beseeching Look

“… with the FIFA World Cup starting June 14, the issue is again in focus after seven of the 11 host cities issued calls to kill street dogs ahead of the games.  Russia has a problem with strays … Rostov-on-Don, like a majority of Russian cities, conducts an annual culling of the packs …. Government contracts pay as much as […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Russian Doping Scandal Whistleblower Expects Clean World Cup” – Moscow Times

Men Sitting Around Long Oval Boardroom Table, File Photo of FIFA Officials Meeting with Vladmir Putin

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – June 1, 2018) Russian former anti-doping chief-turned-whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov said on Thursday that one player in hosts Russia’s provisional World Cup squad had raised suspicions but he expected the tournament to be clean. Speaking by Skype from an undisclosed location in the United States, with his head covered by a balaclava and heavy-framed glasses, Rodchenkov […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “World Cup to Have Little Impact on Russia’s Economy: Moody’s” – Reuters

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

“The 2018 soccer World Cup will have little lasting impact on the Russian economy … Moody’s Investors Service said …. Russia will host [the tournament] … in 11 cities … having spent billions of dollars on preparations. … Moody’s finding is at variance with an assessment … by former deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich …. [S]ectors expected to benefit most […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia hosts World Cup in heat of battle with West” – AFP

Men Sitting Around Long Oval Boardroom Table, File Photo of FIFA Officials Meeting with Vladmir Putin

  “… Russia was a controversial choice when it was handed the rights to the world’s most watched event in a 2010 vote now tainted by bribery charges. … The years since have seen Moscow clash with the West over everything from Syria and Ukraine to the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in England. Russia was even banned […]

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NEWSLINK: “England fans at World Cup ‘at risk of blackmail from Russian mafia hookers’; There are fears gangsters could threaten to send incriminating pictures to fans’ wives or post them on social media” – The Daily Mirror (UK)/Tom Davidson

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

“… ‘It’s not just the Russian government we have to be fearful of when it comes to England fans.  It is also the Russian mafia who we know exploit sex, and use the internet and dating, to offer women in order to blackmail customers.’ …”  

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RUSSIALINK: “Almost 90% of Tickets Sold for the World Cup in Russia” – The Moscow Times

Men Sitting Around Long Oval Boardroom Table, File Photo of FIFA Officials Meeting with Vladmir Putin

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – May 4, 2018) Almost 90 percent of the tickets to the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches have been sold, chairman of the tournament’s organizing committee Alexey Sorokin said Thursday. Sorokin was speaking at a meeting hosted in Sochi by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the state of preparation for the World Cup, business daily Vedomosti […]

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RUSSIALINK: “At the FIFA World Cup This Summer, Russia Will Be Playing for a Miracle; Russia might be hosting the World Cup, but it won’t lift the trophy” – Moscow Times

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – May 1, 2018) On a crisp, cool morning in early November, the Russian national football team trained on the outskirts of Moscow in preparation for friendly matches against Argentina and Spain, two of the favorites to raise the FIFA World Cup trophy in Russia this summer. Spirits were high. Jogging around a dewy field in […]

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NEWSLINK: “If we don’t boycott the World Cup, England fans will almost certainly die in Russia; Here are 13 very good reasons to stay at home” – The Daily Mirror (UK)/Fleet Street Fox

Men Sitting Around Long Oval Boardroom Table, File Photo of FIFA Officials Meeting with Vladmir Putin

“… The Russian state is suspected of involvement in the murder of 14 people in Britain. … more than the Yorkshire Ripper ….  Russian football hooligans are the most organised and ruthless in the world. They injured 130 in Marseille after Euro 2016, including 2 left in comas with life-changing injuries and others who had their Achilles tendons sliced in […]

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NEWSLINK: “Putin to deploy ‘canine KGB death squads’ to butcher thousands of stray dogs in football World Cup host cities, claim campaigners” – The Mirror (UK)/ Will Stewart

File Photo of Dog at Animal Shelter Jumping Up on Person in Winter Clothing, With Beseeching Look

“WARNING – DISTRESSING IMAGES: The mass slaughter of stray dogs will take place despite assurances to the contrary, say animal rights campaigners”  

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NEWSWATCH: “U.S. Soccer Defeat Is a Loss for Russia. In place of a flood of U.S. travelers for next year’s World Cup, a trickle of Panamanians.” – Wall Street Journal

File Image of Soccer Ball, Field, Stadium with Lights, adapted from image at fbi.gov

“… a fresh setback for U.S.-Russia relations: The U.S. men’s soccer team fell to Trinidad and Tobago … and … failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in three decades. For Russia, hosting the quadrennial event in 2018 … missing out on an influx of rich American tourists …. [A past study by two economists suggests] the tourism boost from […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Men, Alexander Novak, Nikolai Nikiforov, Vitaly Mutko at] Meeting with Government members

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(kremlin.ru – February 1, 2017) Vladimir Putin met with Government members to discuss possibilities for further developing treasury monitoring of budget spending, the situation with co-funded housing development, and a number of other current issues. President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon colleagues. Today, we will discuss the results of work and further development for treasury monitoring of budget spending. […]

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