Britain’s diplomatic boycott of the World Cup in Russia over a nerve agent attack in southwest England is back in the spotlight after a new case of exposure to the same poison in the same area.
Even as the team advances in the competition and ahead of the quarter-final showdown against Sweden on Saturday, the VIP stands have lacked the usual smattering of royals and ministers.
Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this year announced the boycott after blaming Russia for the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury — an accusation that has been strongly denied by the Kremlin.
London reiterated the stance this week as it demanded answers from Russia over how two Britons were exposed to the same Soviet-made Novichok toxin.
“The World Cup is not about politics and political leaders,” security minister Ben Wallace said on Thursday when asked how events in Salisbury might impact on the World Cup.
He added the England team was “being looked after by many kind Russian members of the public” while its fans were “getting good support” in Russia.
“That should not detract from the issue that we believe Russian state carried out this attempted murder back in March.”
Moscow has reiterated its innocence and shot back that Britain owed it an apology.