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World Cup: Moscow University students protest new fanzone

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Moscow State University students are protesting against a World Cup fanzone which will be built adjacent to the main University building.

The area overlooks the Luzhniki stadium where the tournaments opening match will be played on June 14th as well as the final on July 15th.

The fanzone will provide entertainment for around 25,000 fans as well a large interactive screen for those without tickets to watch matches.

Students are worried that the fan zone will damage the university’s protected historic park in an area known as Vorobyovy Gory, or Sparrow Hills.

Ekaterina Palmina, a 19 year-old student, told the Nigerian Guardian: “We’re not saying all football fans are wild animals, we just think putting 25,000 people in an area with protected nature is not a good idea.”

This comes after the Independent reported that: “In Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth city, whole student dormitories were emptied ahead of the World Cup to make room for the thousands of police and soldiers brought in to the city for match security.”

In the same city, there have been numerous reports stating that police have apparently embarked on an operation to round up beggars and the homeless. With rough sleeping spots in stations being the main target.

Back in Moscow, Maria Shekoshkhina, a 26 year-old PhD student, said to the Nigerian Guardian: “We started the protest when they told us last year our semester would be cut short because of the fan zone.

“Security services, maintained that the university labs have to close for the World Cup period because of their work with radioactive materials.

“There was also a risk that students will be moved out of their dorms to make way for the National Guard, like in other World Cup cities.”

The protesting students won a partial victory earlier this year when Moscow authorities assured them this will not happen and moved the fanzone 300 metres further from the main university building.

Before the plans, the fanzone was set to be placed directly underneath many student dormitory’s windows.

An online petition addressed to Vladimir Putin and Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin demanding the fan zone be moved elsewhere raised more than 11,500 signatures in February.

Shekoshkhina said the university and city authorities have gone to “absurd” lengths to stop the student protests.

When over 200 students protested on May 22, the university “spontaneously deployed” dozens of cleaners to disrupt the event.

“There were also lots of FSB (the successor agency of the KGB) there,” Shekoshkhina added. “We’ve started to recognise them.”

According to the Nigerian Guardian: “Two students were arrested that day, though they were released shortly afterwards.

“When a sign directing visitors was recently defaced with a graffiti tag reading “No Fan Zone”, the police opened a criminal investigation instead of a usual administrative case.

“They said the damage came to over 65,000 rubles ($1,050, 900 euros).

“Three students were arrested, with social media saying one was taken by officers during an exam, but they were subsequently released.”

The university has taken to social media urging students not to take part in protests.

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