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US senators push FIFA to probe Russia’s alleged exploitation of North Koreans

August 03, 14:50 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The Guardian reported in May that numerous alleged violations took place in regards to workers during the construction of the football stadium in Saint Petersburg

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Zenit Arena stadium in Saint Petersburg

Zenit Arena stadium in Saint Petersburg

© Alexander Demianchuk/TASS

MOSCOW, August 3. /TASS/. A group of eight US Senators wrote a letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino urging that the world’s football governing body open an investigation into Russia’s alleged exploitation of North Korean workforce at a construction site of a stadium for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The Guardian reported in May that numerous alleged violations took place in regards to workers during the construction of the football stadium in Russia’s second largest city of Saint Petersburg. According to the daily, heads of the football federations of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland expressed their concern with labor conditions of North Korean workers at the construction site.

In its letter to the FIFA chief a group of eight senators, led by Senator Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated in particular: "As an organization with the capacity to affect the lives of billions of fans, athletes, and workers around the world, FIFA must live up to its commitments on human rights."

"Protecting workers and athletes from forced labor must be a key element of those commitments. If FIFA fails to take action against Russia and North Korea, it will be perceived as tolerating these countries’ heinous practices," according to the letter.

"The world’s premier sporting event must not be built on the backs of the world’s most vulnerable people," the group of US senators stated.

Following Western media reports in May on the alleged exploitation of North Korean workforce and violations of labor rights in Russia, FIFA officially stated that the world’s governing body of football and "the Russian Local Organising Committee (LOC) have put in place a dedicated decent work monitoring system to protect workers’ rights at the stadium construction sites for the upcoming tournaments in Russia."

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, who is also the president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), said at that time that Western media willfully launched a negative media blitz to smear Russia’s preparations for the world’s two major football tournaments, which are the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

After successfully hosting the FIFA Confederations Cup earlier this summer, Russia is now in full-swing preparations to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The country was granted the right for the global quadrennial football championship after winning the bid in Guatemala in December 2010. The victory came following a tight race against the bid from England, the joint bid from Portugal and Spain and the joint bid on behalf of Belgium and the Netherlands.

The country selected 11 host cities to be the venues for the matches of the 2018 World Cup and they are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.

The matches of the 2018 World Cup will be held between June 14 and July 15 at 12 stadiums located in the 11 mentioned above cities across Russia. Two of the stadiums are located in the Russian capital.

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