Thu, Oct 11, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Star Russian players face jail after ‘racist’ assault

AFP, MOSCOW

Soccer players Pavel Mamaev and Alexander Kokorin could face up to five years in prison for assaulting a government official at a Moscow cafe, in a case that sparked outrage in Russia on Tuesday.

The assault by the players — both former Russian internationals who have courted controversy before — has prompted the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs to open a criminal probe, while the Kremlin called the incident “unpleasant.”

On Monday, Mamaev and Kokorin attacked two Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade officials in an upscale Moscow cafe.

Video footage showed one of the officials, Denis Pak, an ethnic Korean, being hit with a chair while eating a meal.

“They started to mock [Pak’s] ethnicity” and assaulted him when he made a comment, Pak’s lawyer, Gennadiy Udunyan, told state television. “He has a concussion.”

Prior to the cafe assault, the players attacked the driver of a television host and damaged her Mercedes in a separate incident on Monday. The driver was hospitalized with injuries and a criminal probe was opened.

Public outrage quickly snowballed into a public shaming campaign on national television, which published a list of Russian players who were convicted in the past.

The Russian Premier League condemned the two, saying they should face “severe” punishment.

State television featured a host of industry representatives and commentators angrily slamming the attack.

“I think law enforcement agencies will qualify this as hooliganism and punishment for this is quite severe — up to five years in prison,” Russian Football Union executive committee member Igor Lebedev said.

Russian Premier League club Krasnodar pledged to do everything to terminate Mamaev’s contract, while Zenit St Petersburg said that Kokorin’s role in the incident was “disgusting.”

“We are currently looking into how to terminate a contract with the player,” Krasnodar said.

The club said that Mamaev would have to pay “the largest possible fine” and would be barred from training with the first team for the time being.

Zenit said that Kokorin would be disciplined pending the outcome of the police investigation.

After the assault, Pak and the other official, Sergei Gaisin, sought medical assistance before reporting the incident to police.

It is not the first time the players’ behavior has raised eyebrows.

The union in July 2016 suspended the pair after a video emerged from a Monte Carlo nightclub, where Mamaev and Kokorin allegedly spent US$296,000 on a party following Euro 2016, where Russia flopped.

Kokorin, who sat out this year’s World Cup with a knee injury, later apologized for his behavior and was welcomed back into the national team.

Mamaev last played for the national side at Euro 2016, when they finished bottom of their group.

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