Russia's own goal

Ok, first a confession. I don’t watch football matches at all! The last one I saw was the World Cup final in 1998 – France’s (actually very boring) 3-0 win over Brazil.

But if I travel back in time to when I was about six (travel back with me bloggers….!) then you might have seen me sporting my round-necked almost-blood-red Manchester United replica footie strip.

Hop back in the time machine and travel on to see me about four years later and I’d have been wearing … my lovely Royal Blue Chelsea kit (the one with the vertical while lines on the shorts). My two inspirations? First George Best, then Ray “Butch” Wilkins. (Later it was yet another loyalty switch – Coventry City, but hey, that’s a whole different story).

Anyway, see where this is going yet? Yes, that’s right, last night’s monster football match.

Leaving aside my total indifference to football these days, I was still pleased to hear that there was no violence in Moscow and that the Russian paramilitary police didn’t start wielding their batons. There was a nice Channel Four News piece last night with Nick Paton Walsh chatting in Russian (my Russian-speaking girlfriend says Nick’s Russian was “actually okay”!) to relaxed-looking cops outside the stadium.

Ok, so no news is good news and the MUFC win was, according to the entirely unbiased Manchester United blog, “poetic justice”.

However, had it “kicked off” (trouble, not the match) it could have been very nasty. Lately at Amnesty we’ve been increasingly alarmed at the authorities’ heavy-handed suppression of anyone who dares to go out onto Russian streets and protest. Last year was particularly bad with Russia’s armed police (OMON) beating up dozens of people at "Dissenters” marches in Moscow and St Petersburg.

We’ve been monitoring how this has been part of a “shrinking” of freedom in Russia and we’ve called for journalists and civil society members to be allowed to speak out without fear in Russia. Read more on this in Sara Hall’s recent Amnesty blog.

(If you’re in London, by the way, check out “Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case” at the ICA in the next few days. Looks to be a well-worth-seeing documentary on the notorious sushi bar poisoning of the former spy.)

Meanwhile, just time to mention that media reports suggest that negotiations in Dublin on a global ban on cluster bombs are going in the right direction. Seems No.10 is beginning to put pressure on the MOD to clean up its arsenal. (Careful, we’re not back to football!). Read the full cluster bombs background story here.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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