Dec 062017
Russia banned from Winter Olympics

LAUSANNE: Russia was banned Tuesday from the 2018 Winter Games by the International Olympic Committee over its state-orchestrated doping programme, but clean Russian athletes will be allowed to compete under an Olympic flag. The sanction was the toughest ever levelled by the IOC for drug cheating and came just 65 days ahead of the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.In announcing the decision, IOC president Thomas Bach accused Russia of “perpetrating an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport”.An explosive report by the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) and two subsequent IOC investigations have confirmed that Russian athletes took part in an elaborate drug cheating programme which peaked during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Mounting evidence has indicated that the scheme involved senior government officials, including from the sports ministry, with help from secret state agents.The IOC also banned Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko — who was sports minister during the Sochi Games — for life. Mutko is currently the head of the organising committee for the 2018 World Cup, which Russia is hosting. Attention will quickly turn to see if football’s world governing body FIFA allows the scandal-tainted ally of President Vladimir Putin to retain his senior World Cup role. In a statement, FIFA said it had “taken note” of the IOC decision but it had “no impact on the preparations” for Russia 2018. The IOC also suspended the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and its chief Alexander Zhukov. Zhukov said he “apologised” to the IOC [Read More…]

Dec 022017
Russia finds ?ideal? WC group

MOSCOW: Russia breathed a collective sigh of relief on Friday after avoiding Spain and looking like favourites to make it out of their group in their first home World Cup.“The ideal group,” the government-run R-Sport news agency shouted in a banner headline on its website after the State Kremlin Palace draw saw them paired with Saudi Arabia and Egypt for next year’s finals.Russia should face a sterner test in Luis Suarez’s Uruguay — the two-time World Cup winners who also have Paris Saint-Germain’s danger man Edinson Cavani.But both coaches and pundits alike were in good spirits after avoiding the potential disaster of being drawn in a “Group of Death” with sport-mad President Vladimir Putin watching on. Egypt will be spearheaded by Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah while Saudi Arabia will make their first return to the World Cup since 2006.“I think that this is a perfect — even ideal — group,” former Russia coach and three-time domestic Premier League champion Valery Gazzayev told R-Sport. The Russian Football Union’s honorary president Vyacheslav Koloskov agreed that “we got lucky with the draw”. “We should be able to handle all those teams,” he said.Russia launch their campaign to win Group A against Saudi Arabia in Moscow’s historic and completely refurbished Luzhniki Stadium in the tournament’s opening match on June 14. Click for detailed story

Nov 262017
Facing hurdles, Russia gears up to host WC

MOSCOW: Russia is gearing up to host the World Cup for the first time while facing the herculean task of eradicating racism and hooliganism and warding off the threat of a terror attack.Organisers also face the tricky task of appeasing beleaguered fans and President Vladimir Putin, who helped wrest the June 14-July 15 tournament from England in a controversial FIFA vote in 2010 and then gave many of the 11 host cities their first post-Soviet facelift.It is an $11.5-billion (9.6-billion-euro) gamble with the potential to backfire if it leaves behind “white elephant” stadiums and hotels that fall into disuse and fail to turn Russia into the tourism mecca it has always dreamed of being. The logistical challenge of the 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) separating the western-most stadium in Kaliningrad near Poland and the most easterly one in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg — the same distance as that between Paris and Moscow — will also test fans’ resolve.And friction between Russia and the West over Syria and Ukraine make this year’s addition of what is arguably the world’s biggest sports event one of the most diplomatically-charged World Cups in decades. The draw on Friday in the Kremlin will determine just how heated the group stage matches will be.Russian football has long been plagued by hooliganism in which “ultras” pre-arrange fights featuring everything from knives to bats, while racism has become especially pronounced with the infusion of foreign players once the Iron Curtain fell. Brazilian striker Hulk said he heard monkey [Read More…]

Nov 082017
?Russia wants US to extradite doping whistleblower?

MOSCOW: Russia said on Wednesday it planned to ask the United States to extradite Grigory Rodchenkov, the ex-head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory who alleged a state-sponsored doping cover-up at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Rodchenkov last year alleged, after travelling to the United States, that Russia had orchestrated a sophisticated scheme to protect its doping cheats by substituting tainted urine samples with clean ones at the Sochi Games. Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations.“The investigation plans to demand Rodchenkov’s extradition from the United States,” Russia’s investigative committee said in a statement. It remains unclear how Rodchenkov could be extradited given that Russia and the United States do not have an extradition treaty.The investigative committee could not immediately be reached for clarification. The committee also denied that any sample tampering had taken place during the Sochi Games and said it had not found evidence of a state-sponsored doping programme in the country. “The arguments of WADA independent expert McLaren on the substitution of positive doping tests with negative ones at the Sochi anti-doping laboratory during the Winter Olympics have been refuted, as well as the existence in Russia of a state doping programme for athletes to win a maximum number of medals,” the committee said. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been retesting all Russian athletes’ samples from the 2014 Games following Rodchenkov’s allegations.Last week cross-country skiers Alexander Legkov and Evgeniy Belov became the first Russians to be sanctioned for anti-doping rule violations as part of an IOC investigation into allegations [Read More…]

Nov 072017
Seeing double as identical twins play football for Russia

Opponents of Russia’s national side can be forgiven for confusion as they face two identical players: twin brothers Anton and Alexei Miranchuk.The 22-year-old Miranchuk siblings appeared together in the national squad for the first time last month after manager Stanislav Cherchesov rewarded their solid performances for Russian league leaders Lokomotiv Moscow.“We gave the new players a chance to show their worth in matches with teams that have already qualified for the 2018 World Cup finals,” Cherchesov told journalists after friendlies with South Korea and Iran.“(Mario) Fernandes, (Konstantin) Rausch and the Miranchuk twins looked impressive with their club sides this season and we needed to test them in the national squad.“That helped us to finalise the pool of the candidates into our World Cup squad.”The country’s football chief Vitaly Mutko hailed the brothers from the southern Krasnodar region as part of a new generation of dedicated players, a much welcome boost after a dreadful Euro 2016 campaign.Players such as the Miranchuks are “highly motivated” and “have a completely different attitude to football”, Mutko stressed. “It’s a generation of professionals.”The twins meanwhile said their invitation to the national side had done wonders for their confidence.“It was incredibly motivating for us when we got the call up to the national squad,” Anton Miranchuk, who made his senior Russia debut in October’s 4-2 win over South Korea, told AFP.“I just couldn’t put my feelings into words.”“Of course it’s a great responsibility,” his brother Alexei, who earned the first of his 12 international caps in [Read More…]

Oct 122017

MOSCOW: Russia on Thursday presented a new bank note that shows images of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014. The note worth 200 rubles ($3.50) shows a naval memorial in the city of Sevastopol, where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based, and UNESCO-protected Greek and Roman ruins at nearby Chersonesus. The design also includes a map of the peninsula. The images on the bank note were chosen after a national competition last year to pick symbols of Russia. “The Russian people chose these symbols,” the head of Russia’s central bank, Elvira Nabiullina, told journalists in Moscow. “This reflects the desire of the people of Russia to see these symbols on notes.” She insisted that the new images “will not harm the position of the ruble in any way.” By putting images of Crimea in the nation’s wallets, Russia is capitalising on the wave of patriotism prompted by the peninsula’s annexation in March 2014. It also comes as a defiant response to Kiev and to the sanctions imposed by European Union and the United States that have hit the ruble hard. Putin takes victory lap to annexed Crimea The green-tinged note has now become legal tender, along with a new 2,000-ruble bill that shows Russia’s new cosmodrome in Vostochny in the far east. They are Russia’s first new bank notes since 2006 and the new denominations of 200 and 2,000 rubles aim to speed up cash transactions. The notes will first go into circulation in Moscow, the far east [Read More…]

Oct 072017

SAINT PETERSBURG: Russian police violently broke up a rally in Saint Petersburg as thousands took to the streets across Russia Saturday on President Vladimir Putin’s 65th birthday, urging him to quit power. Heeding the call of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny to demand competitive elections, around 3,000 people rallied in Russia’s second city and Putin’s hometown while more than a thousand demonstrated in the centre of Moscow, AFP reporters said. Protests were held in 80 cities around the country. More than 270 people were detained nationwide, according to OVD-Info, a group that monitors politically motivated arrests. But while police in rainy Moscow showed restraint, allowing the crowd of mostly young protesters to march in the city centre in an apparent effort to avoid clashes on Putin’s birthday, the rally in Saint Petersburg ended in violence. Russia’s response: New EU sanctions violate law   Activists chanted “Shame” as helmeted police threw some protesters into police vans, injuring several demonstrators and forcing some to run for cover, an AFP reporter and witnesses said. Igor Klimov, a 20-year-old protester, said he was not happy with Putin. “He has been in power for as long as I can remember and there’s corruption everywhere,” he told AFP. Photographs from the scene showed a woman clutching her bleeding head after being detained by officers at the unauthorised protest. Amnesty International called on Russian authorities to immediately release the protesters and investigate instances of violence. “The Kremlin’s intent is clear – to choke the life out of the protest [Read More…]

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