St Petersburg communists ask Putin to save Zenit

Print version
Sept. 27, 2012, 9:21 a.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Reuters

New Zenit St. Petersburg's striker Hulk (L) and midfielder Axel Witsel attend a Premier League soccer match Zenit against Terek Grozny in St. Petersburg, on September 14, 2012.


MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin has waded into the debate about what critics call profligate spending in domestic soccer, in particular regarding wealthy club Zenit St Petersburg.

Russian champions Zenit have been embroiled in an internal crisis in the past few days, with several senior players apparently unhappy after the club splashed out more than $100 million on Brazil striker Hulk and Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel just before the transfer deadline.

Zenit demoted captain Igor Denisov to the reserve team on Sunday after he refused to play, issuing an ultimatum to renegotiate his contract. Leading striker Alexander Kerzhakov was also demoted for "improper behaviour", the club said.

Putin, a St Petersburg native, said Zenit, bankrolled by Russian energy giant Gazprom, were spending the company's money rather than that of the state.

"I also complain sometimes. I would like to note that it's the companies that buy the players and not the government," he told local officials on Tuesday.

"But fans also want to see world stars, not those who are on the wane but those who are at their peak."

On Wednesday, St Petersburg communists got in on the act, asking Putin to save their club and replace Zenit's Italian coach Luciano Spalletti with a taskmaster from North Korea.

"We have an explosive situation at Zenit and the whole city of St Petersburg," the St Petersburg branch of the Communists of Russia party wrote in an open letter to Putin, posted on their website ( The party is separate from Russia's main Communist Party and its local branch.

"It's obvious, the team is out of control, there are internal squabbles between the players fighting over who gets bigger pay," the letter said.

"It's hard to distinguish between right and wrong in this open conflict - they are all being ugly, egoistic and greedy: Denisov, Kerzhakov as well as the outlanders Hulk and Witzel, who could never become part of our city's identity."

The communists also lashed out at Spalletti, who has led Zenit to two consecutive Russian league titles since arriving in St Petersburg in December 2009, saying he was used to a lavish lifestyle.

"What Zenit need is a tough taskmaster from the DPRK where the sport is part of a daily struggle," it said in a reference to North Korea.

Zenit declined to comment on the letter when contacted by Reuters on Wednesday.

The Kyiv Post is disabling its online comment section due to an increase in trolls, violent comments and other personal attacks. Other news organizations worldwide have taken similar steps for the same reasons. The Kyiv Post regrets having to take this action. The newspaper believes in a robust public debate, but the discussion must be constructive and intelligent. For the time being, the Kyiv Post will allow comments on its moderated Facebook group The newspaper will consider hosting online comments again when circumstances allow. Thank you from the Kyiv Post.


© 1995–2015 Public Media

Web links to Kyiv Post material are allowed provided that they contain a URL hyperlink to the material and a maximum 500-character extract of the story. Otherwise, all materials contained on this site are protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of Public Media at
All information of the Interfax-Ukraine news agency placed on this web site is designed for internal use only. Its reproduction or distribution in any form is prohibited without a written permission of Interfax-Ukraine.