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Robbie Williams criticised over World Cup performance

By | Published on Wednesday 13 June 2018

Robbie Williams

Some British politicians have criticised Robbie Williams’ decision to perform at tomorrow’s World Cup opening ceremony in Russia.

In a statement earlier this week announcing the performance at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, ahead of the opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia, Williams said: “I’m so happy and excited to be going back to Russia for such a unique performance. I’ve done a lot in my career, and opening the FIFA World Cup to 80,000 football fans in the stadium and many millions all over the world is a boyhood dream. We’d like to invite football and music fans to party with us in Russia, in the stadium, or to tune in their TVs a little earlier for an unforgettable show”.

Many did not share Williams’ enthusiasm, however, because of current controversies around the Russian government, and its frosty relations with the UK. Labour MP Stephen Doughty told The Guardian: “It is surprising and disappointing to hear that such a great British artist as Robbie Williams, who has been an ally of human rights campaigns and the LGBT+ community, has apparently agreed to be paid by Russia and Fifa to sing at the World Cup opener”.

He continued: “At a time when Russian jets are bombing civilians in Syria, the Russian state is poisoning people on the streets of Britain, as well as persecuting LGBT+ people in Chechnya and elsewhere – let alone attempting to undermine our democracies – I can only assume Robbie will be speaking out on these issues alongside his performance?”

Doughty’s Labour colleague John Woodcock added: “We all want to support the England team but Robbie Williams is handing Vladimir Putin a PR coup by performing at the thuggish pariah’s opening ceremony just months after Russia carried out a chemical weapons attack on English soil. I understand why the national team felt they should go and compete but no patriotic public figure should be giving a thumbs up to Russia by acting in this way. Even at this late stage, I really hope Robbie will reconsider and pull out”.

Meanwhile, Bill Browder, who heads up the Global Magnitsky Justice campaign, which was set up in the wake of the death of Russian anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009, tweeted a message to Williams citing various controversies involving Russia. He stated: “There’s lots of ways to make money, but selling your soul to a dictator shouldn’t be one of them. Shame on you. This message is on behalf of Sergei Magnitsky, Boris Nemtsov, Anna Politkovskaya, Natalia Estimirova, victims of MH17, 10,000 dead Ukrainian soldiers”.

In its article, The Guardian notes that this is not Williams’ first lucrative performance in Russia. Earlier this year, he performed at a party to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Russian mobile phone company MegaFon, and he is alleged to have performed at a private party for Vladimir Putin’s inner circle in 2014.