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People in blackface march in Sochi parade before Confed Cup

Associated Press logo Associated Press 30/05/2017
In this photo taken Saturday, May 27, 2017 people carrying a Cameroon flag, take part in a parade in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia. People in blackface wearing African clothing and carrying bananas marched in a government-backed weekend parade in Sochi, a city that will host one of Cameroon's matches at the Confederations Cup. (AP Photo/Artur Lebedev) © The Associated Press In this photo taken Saturday, May 27, 2017 people carrying a Cameroon flag, take part in a parade in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia. People in blackface wearing African clothing and carrying bananas marched in a government-backed weekend parade in Sochi, a city that will host one of Cameroon's matches at the Confederations Cup. (AP Photo/Artur Lebedev)

MOSCOW — People in blackface wearing African clothing and carrying bananas marched in a government-backed weekend parade in Sochi, a city that will host one of Cameroon's matches at the Confederations Cup.

A photograph on the city government's official website showed two people in blackface at Saturday's parade. One was wearing an afro-style wig and bananas on a string, while the other was wearing a Cameroon jersey and a headdress while holding a drum. The photo was later removed.

The people in the photograph are accompanied by others waving Cameroonian flags.

Lolade Adewuyi, a Nigerian journalist studying in Russia who witnessed the parade, told The Associated Press the people in blackface appeared as part of a section devoted to the June 17-July 2 Confederations Cup, a key test event for next year's World Cup.

Cameroon plays Germany in Sochi on June 25.

Adewuyi said the parade, which was led by Sochi's mayor, also contained people wearing sombreros and fake moustaches to symbolize Mexico, another country which will play next month in the southern Russian city.

The costumes were the result of local Russians not understanding wider attitudes to race, rather than malice, Adewuyi suggested.

"They don't understand that it's an issue to have blackface and then have bananas along with it, you know? They don't see it," he said.

The Sochi city government said in a statement Tuesday that the parade was a "celebration of the different continents and a testimony of Russia's open attitude toward traditions from around the globe."

"By no means did the carnival parade intend to insult anyone," it said. "On the contrary, it was organized with the friendliest of goals in mind: to create a positive atmosphere. We look forward to warmly welcoming the Cameroon national team and its fans, as well as the representatives of all other countries, during the FIFA Confederations Cup."

FIFA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

During the 2014 World Cup, then-FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb, who was the head of FIFA's anti-racism task force, said Russians needed education on discrimination issues ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

"Russia itself needs a special task force, just for Russia and from an educational standpoint internally," he said.

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