Arsene Wenger says he has no qualms about taking his Arsenal side to Moscow next month despite a recent souring in Anglo-Russian relations.
The Gunners are set to play CSKA Moscow in the quarter-finals of the Europa League next week having been drawn together two weeks after the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence spy, and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury.
The use of a military grade nerve agent has drawn widespread condemnation from the international community and led to over 100 Russian diplomats being expelled from embassies across Europe and the US. In a tit-for-tat retaliation, President Putin, who recently secured another six-year term in office, has expelled 23 British diplomats.
Football and politics don’t tend to mix well, however, with a World Cup in Russia on the horizon it’s hard separating the two right now.
“This is a typical situation where sport has not to influence politics and politics not to influence sport,” Wenger told beIN SPORTS.
“It’s a difficult relationship at the moment between the two countries, so it’s not linked with human rights.
“Sport has to influence the positive of respecting human rights. This is a situation where it’s more, we don’t really know what’s going on.
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“I’m not too concerned about safety because I’m sure Uefa will not take any risk or gambles.
“Russia are organising the World Cup and England having a long history of organising sporting events will make sure the competition is safe.”
Incidentally, Arsenal last played CSKA Moscow in 2006 just before Britain accused Russia of assassinating British naturalised Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in London.
A 2015 inquiry concluded that traces of the deadly polonium 210 used to kill the former KGB agent were discovered at the Emirates Stadium having been carried there by prime suspects Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun who watched the 0-0 draw with Litvinenko, who’d been poisoned earlier in the afternoon.