Russia is hoping football can become an instrument that it can use to help legitimize its annexation of Crimea.
Russian troops invaded Crimea in late February 2014 in response to the Euromaidan Revolution in Kyiv. Pro-Russian Crimean authorities signed an annexation pact with Russia on March 18, 2014, to formalize the first forceful change of a European border since the end of the Second World War. The European Union and the United States do not formally recognize Russia’s land grab, and have imposed economic sanctions on Russia to punish its aggressive actions.
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Emanuele Giulianelli is a freelance sports reporter based in Italy.