Sport was an important stage for Vladimir Putin. He was able to present himself to the international audience as a cosmopolitan statesman – to his own population as a hands-on father of the country.
It is an iconographic image of sports history. Vladimir Putin, Gianni Infantino, the President of World Football Association (Fifa), and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are watching the opening game of the 2018 World Cup in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium from upholstered armchairs. By this time, Russian forces had annexed Crimea and fought alongside Syrian dictator Bashar al-Asad. At this point, Russian forces have stepped up repression against civil society and interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.