Rus­sian ac­tivists say they were de­tained ahead of FIFA event

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

En­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists in the Rus­sian city of Kazan said Wed­nes­day that they were de­tained by po­lice as they planned a protest be­fore the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup draw.

Iskan­der Ya­seveyev, an aca­demic and en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paigner, told The As­so­ci­ated Press that he and six oth­ers were stopped by po­lice ahead of the draw last Satur­day, and held for three hours un­til the event was over.

Ya­seveyev said po­lice from a counter-ex­trem­ism unit ap­proached him and asked him to come with them for a talk, and when he re­fused, they called col­leagues who de­tained him be­cause they said he re­sem­bled a wanted crim­i­nal.

Three of those held, in­clud­ing Ya­seveyev, planned to protest out­side the draw venue against the ex­pan­sion of a sta­dium park­ing lot, which they say would de­stroy a meadow which is home to rare an­i­mal species. The other four in­cluded a bi­ol­o­gist, who was lead­ing a tour of the meadow for three other lo­cals.

They were de­tained in var­i­ous lo­ca­tions well away from the draw venue. "I was stopped a few hun­dred me­ters from my house and that shows that I'd been un­der sur­veil­lance from the counter-ex­trem­ism unit," Ya­seveyev said. There were no com­plaints of po­lice vi­o­lence.

Rus­sian counter-ex­trem­ism units, which are os­ten­si­bly fo­cused on track­ing po­ten­tially vi­o­lent po­lit­i­cal and re­li­gious groups, have fre­quently been crit­i­cised for tak­ing part in crack­downs against op­po­si­tion mem­bers.

"FIFA fully re­spects and sup­ports the right of free­dom of ex­pres­sion," a spokesper­son for foot­ball's world gov­ern­ing body said, but re­ferred any other in­quiries to lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

Kazan po­lice re­ferred ques­tions to an of­fi­cer who could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment.

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