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Euro 2012: The 'Controversial Edition' Kicks Off


BBC NEWS (United-Kingdom), RMC (France), LA STAMPA (Italy)

Although the 14th European Soccer Championship is only just kicking off in the Ukraine and Poland, it has been the topic of headlines for many weeks now. The two countries hosting the competition are at the center of multiple controversies:

*There is a culture of hooliganism and racism among Polish and Ukrainian soccer fans. BBC One recently broadcasted an edifying documentary film entitled Euro 2012 – Stadiums of Hate. Journalist Chris Rogers spent a month in the two host countries, studying the behavior of local soccer fans. The result is particularly shocking: in the Ukraine we witness 2000 people in a stadium making Nazi salutes and attacking two Indian men - who were supporting the same team as them. In Poland, Nazi symbols are also very common in stadiums. This racist and anti-Semitic behavior was confirmed when the Netherlands team arrived in Krakow on Wednesday. The team was welcomed with "monkey noises," French website Francetv revealed. The players didn't react, and continued training on the other side of the field.

*Another topic of contention is the Yulia Tymoshenko case. The Former Ukrainian Prime Minister is currently in jail after being convicted of corruption - on charges many believe were trumped up after she accused the Ukrainian president of rigging elections. Many political leaders said they would boycott the soccer championship to protest against Tymoshenko's imprisonment. After a similar announcement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, both French President François Hollande and British Foreign Minister William Hague have announced their decision to boycott the Euro 2012, French sport radio station RMC reports.

Aside from the troubles of the two host countries, other teams are also facing controversy. The Italian team is at the center of a huge game fixing scandal. It should be noted though, that after similar scandals in 1980 and 2000, Italy made it through the final phase of the European Championships, and won 1982 and 2006 World Cups. On a much more noble note, the team took time to visit the former Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz in Poland before beginning the competition, La Stampa reported (see video below):

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Putin's "Pig-Like" Latvia Threat Is A Chilling Reminder Of What's At Stake In Ukraine

In the Ukraine war, Russia's military spending is as high as ever. Now the West is alarmed because the Kremlin leader is indirectly hinting at a possible attack on Latvia, a NATO member. It is a reminder of a growing danger to Europe.

Photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Pavel Lokshin


BERLIN — Russian President Vladimir Putin sometimes chooses downright bizarre occasions to launch his threats against the West. It was at Monday's meeting of the Russian Human Rights Council, where Putin expressed a new, deep concern. It was not of course about the human rights of the thousands of political prisoners in his own country, but about the Russian population living in neighboring Latvia, which happens to be a NATO member, having to take language tests.

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