On July 15, the Russian state-owned news agency Sputnik reported that Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for preventing any “statements of hatred” during the 2018 World Cup.
This is the quote Sputnik cited from the event -- in fact, the only quote: "This World Cup is a real example for the rest of the world of how such tournaments should be organized. For not only did you provided free transportation for fans but also prevented any cases, any statements of hatred. It's a real example for the whole world."
While it is widely recognized the Russian government turned the World Cup into a PR success, it is also true that not all expressions “of hatred” were tamped down.
•On June 20, FIFA fined the Mexican Football Association due to its fans’ “homophobic chant.”
•On June 24, FIFA fined the Danish Football Association after fans threw objects at Australian fans and displayed a“sexist banner.”
•Also on June 24, Poland was fined for a“political and offensive banner.”
•On June 30, both Russia and Serbia were fined for fans displaying a neo-Nazi banner.
•Even the Sputnik story mentions the case of Croatian player Domagoj Vida, who was almost sanctioned by FIFA after he appeared in a social media video chanting “Slava Ukraini,” (Glory to Ukarine) after his team’s victory over Russia on July 7. While many people do not consider “Slava Ukraini” to be a nationalist or discriminatory chant, FIFA did give Vida a warning. The assistant coach Ognjen Vukojevic, who also appeared in the video, was suspended from his duties and the Croatian Football Association was fined as well.
•A large group of Russian fans can be seen on a Twitter video on July 7, chanting epithets at the Croatian team following Vida’s remark.
Another interesting aspect of the Sputnik article is that it was limited to the topic of football, while the two presidents discussed much more than just sports. Even on the Kremlin’s official website we see the Croatian president reference the recent NATO summit as well as the then upcoming summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, but the transcript cuts off after that.
President Grabar-Kitarovic’s government Web site mentions her congratulations to Putin for a “highly successful” World Cup, but did not go on to mention her quoted comments on “statements of hatred.” Her Web site went on to discuss more substantive issues, such as bi-lateral relations, economic cooperation and even the air quality in Slavonski Brod, a city in eastern Croatia, where Russia is credited with agreeing to allow cleaner Croatian gas to supply a refinery just across the border in Serbia.
None of that could be seen in the Sputnik article and most of it was excluded from the Kremlin transcript. Yet the praise for Russia’s role in the World Cup remains. Polygraph.info sought comment from the Croatian government or President Grabar-Kitarovic’s office in three separate e-mails, receiving no response.
This would not be the first time Russian media has quoted a foreign leader while leaving out vital context. In June, Polygraph.info reported the Russian state-owned news agency TASS’s misrepresentation of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s comments during an official state visit. The TASS story portrayed Kurz’s words as praise for Russia and its role in the Syrian and Ukrainian conflicts, while omitting his comments about upholding EU sanctions against Russia and the need for that country to uphold its end of the Minsk II agreements to resolve the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas region.
Polygraph.info was only able to discover the full context of those comments, in June, when the chancellor’s office responded with more information.