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Tags: fifa | corruption | charges | us | russia | putin

Putin: Arrests a US Ploy to Discredit Russia, Grab Control of FIFA

Thursday, 28 May 2015 06:23 AM EDT

Russia rejected any wrongdoing in its successful bid to stage the 2018 World Cup and criticized a U.S.-Swiss corruption probe into soccer’s ruling body that raised doubts over the way it was awarded the tournament.

Russia has "many questions" about the investigation into FIFA soccer officials, which is "another case of the extraterritorial application of U.S. laws," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a website statement.

Swiss prosecutors said on Wednesday that they had uncovered "irregularities" in the selection of Russia and Qatar as host countries of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments as the U.S. charged top FIFA officials over an alleged 24-year scheme involving $150 million in bribes from sports marketing executives, the biggest corruption scandal to hit the governing body of the world’s most popular sport.

"We hope that this will by no means be used to cast a shadow on the international soccer organization in general and the decisions it is taking," Lukashevich said.

Russia’s World Cup Organizing Committee said that its bid campaign was made "in full compliance with FIFA rules" and that its representatives "acted ethically and in a spirit of fair play throughout," according to an emailed statement.

Swiss authorities said they’ll be questioning 10 people who voted on the award of the World Cup to Russia and Qatar as part of their investigations into allegations of "criminal mismanagement and of money-laundering."

Prestige Project

There are "no such accusations" from Swiss prosecutors against Russia over alleged bribery in the award of the 2018 tournament, Sports Minister Vitaliy Mutko said in a phone interview from Zurich. The "contract is signed" for Russia to host the World Cup and "we’re continuing preparations," he said.

Mutko, who was in the Zurich hotel where FIFA officials were arrested, said nobody in the Russian delegation has been questioned by police, though they’re ready to respond to inquiries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country is spending 665 billion rubles (almost $13 billion) on preparations to host the World Cup for the first time, has staked his prestige on staging major sports tournaments. Last year Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

"At its root this has nothing to do with Russia," said Sergei Markov, a Kremlin-linked political analyst. "This is about Washington taking control of FIFA."

Host Pressure

The embattled president of FIFA, Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, 79, is standing for re-election on Friday. The European soccer association, UEFA, called for the election to be postponed in a statement issued late Wednesday that said "corruption is deeply rooted in FIFA’s culture."

The U.S., which is locked in a dispute with Putin over the conflict in Ukraine, will use the scandal to step up pressure for Russia to be stripped of the right to host the tournament, Markov said. "The political benefits can be huge," he said.

"In Russia any such scandal is seen as a part of campaign to discredit Russia and they will see it not as fight against corruption but as a fight against Russia," said Alexander Baunov, senior associate in the Carnegie Moscow Center.

The U.S. and Swiss investigations promise to upend an organization that has endured a series of scandals during Blatter’s tenure, which began in 1998. FIFA said Wednesday that the presidential election, as well as the World Cups in Russia and Qatar, would take place as planned.

Sanctions Call

Two U.S. senators, Democrat Bob Menendez and Republican John McCain, on Tuesday urged FIFA not to re-elect Blatter for his fifth term as president in light of his "continued support" for Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup.

In a letter to the FIFA Congress, the senators said the economic benefits from hosting the tournament would contravene the sanctions imposed on Russia over its intervention in Ukraine. The body should elect a president who’ll "work to deny the Putin regime the privilege" of staging the World Cup, it said.

The U.S. and Europe are locked in their worst confrontation with Russia since the Cold War over a more than yearlong conflict in eastern Ukraine, in which Putin is accused of supporting pro-Russian separatists. The Kremlin denies U.S. and European Union accusations that Russia has sent troops and weapons to support the rebels.

© Copyright 2023 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Russia rejected any wrongdoing in its successful bid to stage the 2018 World Cup and criticized a U.S.-Swiss corruption probe into soccer's ruling body that raised doubts over the way it was awarded the tournament. "This is about Washington taking control of FIFA," said one analyst.
fifa, corruption, charges, us, russia, putin
Thursday, 28 May 2015 06:23 AM
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