By Paul Goble
Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, said that the Kremlin leader would have been delighted to welcome US President Donald Trump and the leaders of leading Western countries to the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Moscow tomorrow.
But it is a measure of Moscow’s continuing isolation, despite the best efforts of itself and some in the West, that besides seven leaders of CIS countries (Armenia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and of the two unrecognized states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it has been able to attract no leader from a major power.
Instead, the best the Kremlin could do in this critically important instance was to attract the leaders of Rwanda, Bolivia, Lebanon, Panama and Paraguay, hardly those of the rank that Putin and his spokesman have made clear they wanted (polit.ru/news/2018/06/13/peskov/ and
This will embarrass the Kremlin in the eyes of its own people who are already upset by the competition’s costs and the inconveniences it has imposed on them. One measure of the latter is that in the last two weeks, Russians searching on line have sought to find out what the Kremlin has banned during the World Cup (afterempire.info/2018/06/12/mundial/).
One ban that has been suggested but not yet put in place highlights the problems the Kremlin faces. A Duma deputy has called on Russians “not to engage in intimate relations with foreign guests”, lest there be an upsurge in Russian single mothers as after the 1980 Olympics (znak.com/2018-06-13/v_gosdume_poprosili_rossiyanok_ne_vstupat_v_intimnye_otnosheniya_s_gostyami_chm_po_futbolu).