The Slaves of St Petersburg

Josimar can reveal that at least 110 North Koreans have worked at the Zenit Arena in St Petersburg, one of the venues for the 2018 World Cup Finals. International experts describe the workers from North Korea as both slaves and hostages. One North Korean worker was found dead in a storage container outside the stadium.

By Håvard Melnæs
Translated by Lars Johnsen
Interpreter: Artem Filatov
Photos: Denis Sinyakov and Sergey Grachev

St Petersburg, Russia
The huge park awaiting anyone who steps outside Krestovsky Ostrov metro station is split down the middle by a wide and paved avenue. Zenit Arena is located on the park’s far end, two kilometres away. It has cost 1.5 billion dollars and has taken 11 years to build and is still not finished. It has been a site of systematic abuse of migrant workers, slave-like conditions, corruption and death.
Lined along both sides of the park, are refreshment kiosks, caravans and merry-go-rounds. A sharp wind cuts through the fog. This is a popular park for strolls. It is a Sunday in February 2017, but hardly anybody is out walking.

Chaos and corruption
In 2006, long before Russia had even bid for the right to host the 2018 World Cup, Zenit St Petersburg, one of Russia’s biggest clubs, decided to build a new stadium. The much-loved, but outdated Petrovsky Stadium had been built in the 1920s. The new Zenit Arena was going to be Zenit St Petersburg’s new fortress. The plan was that the club would move into their new home in December 2008.
In mid-March 2017, the arena is still not finished. The electrical wiring is vulnerable...

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