Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have called for Russia to lose the right to host the football World Cup in 2018 if President Putin continues his involvement with separatists in Ukraine.
However, David Cameron urged caution instead yesterday, pouring cold water on his coalition partner’s call for action. “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.” a spokesman said.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg called for Russia to be stripped of the tournament if Putin continues to help separatists in Ukraine.
Clegg’s strong message follows Conservative MP Tracey Crouch’s demand for Fifa to look again at its plans in light of the downing of Malaysian airline flight MH17 earlier this month.
“We’ve got to take tougher sanctions [on Russia], but also we’ve got to make it quite clear that he [Putin] cannot expect to get the privileges of being at the top table of world affairs if he’s not prepared to play by the basic rules of world affairs,” the deputy prime minister told the Sunday Times.
“If he carries on with this belligerent behaviour . . . it’s unthinkable that he should have the privilege of hosting the World Cup in 2018,” Clegg added.
Labour’s Douglas Alexander also called on Fifa to reconsider Russia as hosts “if it is confirmed that Russia carries direct responsibly for downing flight MH17, and the Kremlin nonetheless continues to sponsor and fuel the conflict in Ukraine.”
Fifa, the body tasked with organising the tournament, has ruled out a boycott of Russia. It has also come under intense criticism for the process that led to the subsequent World Cup being granted to Qatar.