Macron to attend World Cup semifinal, despite British boycott

Despite ally Britain’s diplomatic boycott of the tournament over a nerve agent attack, the French President will travel to Russia.

Emmanuel Macron has confirmed he will be in Russia to watch the French football team play the semifinals.   -  AFP

President Emmanuel Macron will attend France’s World Cup semifinal in Russia, his office confirmed on Friday, as ally Britain pursues a diplomatic boycott of the tournament over a nerve agent attack.

Macron had promised to attend the match if France reached the semifinals on Tuesday in Saint Petersburg, and the confirmation came shortly after the team went through with an assured 2-0 win against Uruguay.

“Well done to our boys in blue. See you on Tuesday!” the President tweeted after the game.

British officials are boycotting the tournament after blaming Moscow for the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the streets of an English town in March. The Kremlin has strongly denied that it was behind the attack on Skripal and his daughter, using the Soviet-made nerve agent Novichok, which hospitalised them for weeks.

The row is back in the spotlight after a couple in the same south-western town of Salisbury fell ill on Saturday after being exposed to the same chemical, spreading fear among local residents and angering British politicians afresh.

Differing degrees of boycott

Prime Minister Theresa May announced an official boycott of the World Cup earlier this year and London reiterated the stance this week after the couple's poisoning.

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Several of Britain's Western allies have followed suit with the boycott, to differing degrees. Iceland snubbed the tournament altogether, after indefinitely postponing all bilateral meetings with Russia. High-level officials from Sweden and Denmark boycotted the June 14 opening ceremony, but ministers have since attended games.

But Belgium's King Philippe took his two sons to Russia to watch his country play Tunisia, while Spain's King Felipe VI jetted over to see his nation get knocked out by host Russia.

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