UK & World News

  • 27 July 2014, 16:53

Clegg: Russia Should Be Stripped Of World Cup

Russia should be stripped of the 2018 World Cup in the wake of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, says Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

He said it was "unthinkable" at present that the tournament could go ahead in the country blamed by the West for supplying arms to pro-Russian separatists suspected of shooting down the jet.

Football's world governing body Fifa this week ruled out calls from some German politicians for Russia to be boycotted, insisting the tournament could be "a force for good".

Fifa President Sepp Blatter has already dismissed calls to strip Russia of the World Cup after Moscow annexed Crimea earlier this year.

But Mr Clegg told The Sunday Times that allowing it to go ahead without a change of course by Russian President Vladimir Putin would make the world look "so weak and so insincere" in its condemnation of Moscow's annexation of Crimea and support for the rebels.

"If there's one thing that Vladimir Putin cares about, as far as I can see, it's his sense of status," he said.

"Maybe reminding him that you can't retain the same status in the world if you ignore the rest of the world, maybe that will have some effect on his thinking."

Mr Clegg also said Russia should not host a Formula One Grand Prix in October, but F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has said that will go ahead as scheduled.

Douglas Alexander, Labour's spokesman on foreign affairs, says stripping Russia of the World Cup is an option if its complicity in the downing of MH17 is proven.

"Fifa should be considering contingencies now, and any discussion should happen quickly, so that if necessary, alternative plans are in place in time for teams and fans from around the world," he said in a statement.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he prefers to avoid mixing sport and politics and to use other means, such as EU asset freezes and sanctions on individuals and entities, to punish Russia.

A Number 10 spokesman said: "The Prime Minister does not believe we should reach immediately for boycotts, but it is also not surprising, given Russian behaviour, that people are starting to raise the issue. 

"It shows the importance of Russia changing course, before its international standing is damaged even further."

Moscow has reacted angrily to additional sanctions imposed by the EU, saying they will hamper co-operation on security issues and undermine the fight against terrorism and organised crime.

Russia's foreign ministry also accused the US of contributing to the conflict in Ukraine through its support for the pro-Western government in Kiev.

The majority of those on board the Malaysia Airlines plane were Dutch, and the country's football association has said it will decide whether or not to take part in qualifying for the tournament.

It comes as an international team cancelled a trip to the crash site in eastern Ukraine due to intensifying fighting in the area between Ukrainian government forces and the rebels.

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