Finally, justice in Russia!*

russia flag misty

*OBS! Only between 14 June – 15 July for players on the pitch. What did you think?

The choice of Russia as host for the 2018 FIFA World Cup has sparked a widespread debate, not least in light of the country’s abysmal human rights record. That is why ahead of the tournament Civil Rights Defenders decided to team up with the Swedish Football Association to inform the team and its leadership about the situation in the country.

While some advocate boycott we see an event such as this as an opportunity to shed a spotlight on the country’s human rights movement. After more than 30 years working in Russia we know that change is possible if it comes from the inside. We also know that change is dependent on international support. Because in the shadow of Putin’s propaganda machine stand Russian human rights defenders determined to fight for democracy and justice despite repressions they face.

The situation in Russia – an overview

  • Since President Vladimir Putin returned to power in 2012, the situation for human rights organisations has deteriorated significantly.
  • Several repressive laws have been introduced, among them the “foreign agent” law which labels organisations as spies if they receive foreign funding.
  • There is an ongoing, state-sponsored propaganda campaign with a main purpose to smear Russian human rights defenders, journalists and other critical voices.
  • Attacks by Internet trolls is part of everyday life for the country’s human rights organisations.
  • Chechnya is the part of Russia where the human rights situation is at its worst. Several of the region’s human rights defenders have either been detained on false charges, faced harassment and violent attacks, or even been murdered as a result of their human rights work.

More information can be found in our latest Russia report.


Oyub Titiyev works for Memorial – the last remaining human rights organisation on the ground in Chechnya. He was arrested in January this year and now risk up to ten years in prison solely because he dared to stand up for everyone’s universal freedoms and rights.

Civil Rights Defenders works continuously for the release of Oyub Titiev. Among other things, we try to encourage FIFA to act in his support during the 2018 World Cup.

On 13 June, several Members of the European Parliament reiterated our demands in an open letter to the president of FIFA. “FIFA and you, Mr Infantino, personally are obliged to make every effort to influence the Russian and Chechen authorities to free Oyub Titiev and thus minimise a scandalous situation when sports is used to hide and legitimise grave human rights violations, such as in the case of today’s Chechnya and Russia,” the letter read.


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