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24 Jun, 2021 20:47

Leading Russian football club takes fight against US censorship to Russian courts & United Nations after being ‘blocked by Google’

Leading Russian football club takes fight against US censorship to Russian courts & United Nations after being ‘blocked by Google’

The boss of a Russian Premier League club with links to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov says it is fighting for the right to freedom of information and sport in a legal challenge over strong US sanctions for human rights violations.

Akhmat's YouTube channel, which it said was used to portray life at the club and football in Russia, has been made unavailable by YouTube because it has been added to a sanctions list by the US Treasury Department, the top-flight side has claimed.

Under the Magnitsky Act, passed in the US in 2012 in response to the death of Russian auditor Sergei Magnitsky, people who are deemed by the US to have violated human rights and the rule of law receive a range of punishments including prohibition from entering the country and having their assets there frozen.

Akhmat are thought to have become the first sporting organization to have joined the list as part of measures that were reportedly initiated in December.

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In a statement pledging to take its case to the governmental Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russia (FAS) and Russian courts in co-operation with the United Nations, the club said that the sanctions opposed the principle of sport being politically neutral, calling them "unacceptable measures to politicize sports" on the part of US authorities and Google, which bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006.

The announcement said that an appeal against Google's decision has been made to an arbitration court in a bid to have the YouTube channel unblocked, with a statement to the FAS accusing the search engine giant of abusing its dominant position in the social media network video hosting market.

"The club considers it necessary to involve both the sports community and the world in process as much as possible," it added, via translation.

"To this end, FC Akhmat has turned to the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the exercising of human rights.

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"Our task is to draw the attention of the UN to the unprecedented pressure on the club, which contradicts the principles and norms established by the International Charter for Physical Education and Sport, UN resolutions, the IOC Olympic Charter and the FIFA and Uefa Statutes."

Several other companies, including a fight club, a fund named after huge sports fan Kadyrov and a mineral water firm are also on the sanctioned list, according to sports.ru.

The club is named after Kadyrov's late father, Akhmad, who was one of his predecessors as the leader of the Chechen Republic.

A separate part of the legal challenge is focusing on lifting the restrictions by arguing that they are preventing Akhmat from providing access to sports in the region of Chechen capital Grozny, promoting participation in sport for young people and children and creating an infrastructure for "physical culture".

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"The club is one of the most multicultural in Russia, bringing together players of different nationalities," it added.

The club's General Director, Musayevich Aidamirov, insisted: "Sport is neutral and outside of politics.

"We are convinced that the right to freedom of information and the right to sport will receive due protection, both within the Russian legal system and by authorized international institutions.

"We are confident in the support of Grozny residents by the international sports community."

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