Defiant Putin Welcomes Boycott-free World Cup

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MOSCOW – Russia welcomed the world to the World Cup on Thursday as cheerful fans streamed into Moscow and 10 other cities and President Vladimir Putin’s government derided Western efforts to isolate him.

The Kremlin leader, greeted by a huge cheer ahead of the hosts’ opening game against Saudi Arabia, spoke of showing the world a hospitable Russia and of sport overcoming differences, as the country grapples with Western sanctions imposed after its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine four years ago.

Talking of a love of soccer uniting the planet “as one team”, Putin said: “In this unity, over which no powers reign, in which there are no differences of language, of ideology or of faith, lies the great power of football, and of all sport.”




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