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Ukraine crisis

Russia’s hosting World Cup into disarray

Sports Desk |
Update: 2014-09-04 06:16:00
Russia’s hosting World Cup into disarray

DHAKA: A confused exchange of public statements about a possible ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine have thrown Thursday’s talks on new sanctions—including a future threat to Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup—into disarray.

In statements this morning, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko’s office said he had spoken with Russian president Vladimir Putin, and that the two had agreed to a “permanent ceasefire” in eastern Ukraine.

But then Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said that actually the two leaders had only discussed “steps that would facilitate a cease-fire.”

In any case, Peskov said, Putin could not agree to a ceasefire, because Russia isn’t a participant in the fighting.

Following the situation, Europe considers Russia’s suspension (paywall) from international sporting events, including the 2018 World Cup.

According to report of Financial Times, besides economic measures, thought could also be given to taking coordinated action within the G7 and beyond to recommend suspension of Russian participation in high-profile international cultural, economic or sports events (Formula 1 races, UEFA football competitions, 2018 World Cup, etc).

If a suspension of the World Cup happens, “this will sting the Russians far more than anything the EU will do on finance this round,” Eurasia Group’s Mujtaba Rahman told the FT. Baltic nations such as Estonia and Lithuania are fans of the idea, and will probably keep bringing it up.

But Russia experts expressed doubts that such a move could happen. Moving the 2018 Cup from Moscow would probably be regarded as draconian. And, Andrew Kuchins of the Center on Strategic and International Studies tells Quartz, “FIFA is not an organization known for taking political stands on issues, to put it lightly.” He was referring to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association. Indeed, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has dismissed the idea.

It’s easier to imagine a boycott, such as the West did in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, which would not require any decision by FIFA, but would be a considerable sacrifice on both sides. Putin would not like it if Germany, Spain and France, for example, refused to participate—and those countries would be loathe to boycott. At this stage, the debate remains in the realm of theory, but it serves as a recognition of something Putin cherishes: the chance to show off in the premier global sporting event.

BDST: 1616 HRS, SEP 04, 2014

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