PARIS, July 6, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – President Emmanuel Macron will attend France’s World Cup semi-final in Russia, his office confirmed Friday, as ally Britain pursues a diplomatic boycott of the tournament over a nerve agent attack.
Macron had promised to attend the match if France reached the semi-finals Tuesday in Saint Petersburg, and the confirmation came shortly after the team went through with an assured 2-0 win against Uruguay.
British officials are boycotting the tournament after blaming Moscow for the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the streets of an English town in March.
The Kremlin has strongly denied that it was behind the attack on Skripal and his daughter, using the Soviet-made nerve agent Novichok, which hospitalised them for weeks.
The row is back in the spotlight after a couple in the same southwestern town of Salisbury fell ill Saturday after being exposed to the same chemical, spreading fear among local residents and angering British politicians afresh.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced an official boycott of the World Cup earlier this year and London reiterated the stance this week after the couple’s poisoning.
Several of Britain’s Western allies have followed suit with the boycott, to differing degrees.
Iceland snubbed the tournament altogether, after indefinitely postponing all bilateral meetings with Russia.
High-level officials from Sweden and Denmark boycotted the June 14 opening ceremony, but ministers have since attended games.
But Belgium’s King Philippe took his two sons to Russia to watch his country play Tunisia, while Spain’s King Felipe VI jetted over to see his nation get knocked out by hosts Russia.