Russia: Ukraine Welcome At World Cup 2018

Russian World Cup organisers say Ukraine will be welcome at the tournament despite tension between the two nations following the annexing of Crimea, and ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine Welcome At World Cup 2018

Ukraine and Western governments blame Russia for fuelling the conflict, and have levied sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s government in protest.

The crisis, coupled with falling oil prices, has caused the rouble to collapse almost 40% and has begun to impact on living standards and the wider economy.

Russia denies any military involvement in the conflict, and Russia 2018 chief executive Alexei Sorokin told Sky News the issue will not affect Ukraine’s participation if they qualify.

“They would be welcome as any other team in Russia,” he said.

“The Ukrainian delegation here at the draw are as welcome as any other guests. We do not make any difference.”

Mr Putin will open the World Cup draw at the Konstantin Palace outside St Petersburg, an event that offers him a platform to underline Russia’s status as a world power.

After the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia is hosting the two biggest events in sport in four years, and Sochi has given organisers confidence they will deliver the World Cup within the 660 billion rouble budget (around £7bn at current rates).

Some hotel investment has been cut with foreign investors reluctant to back Russian projects, but Mr Sorokin said the project is still on track.

“What has been cut is some hotels,” he said.

“Investors didn’t deem it possible to spend money on certain hotels. Still, there are a lot of hotels being built, we are perfectly within the required number of rooms.

“As for the federal part of the programme, not corporate, not private, it remains intact, the numbers are the same. We don’t expect any severe changes in that.

“We are perfectly capable of organising the World Cup, building all the infrastructure within the limit of the federal programme, that has been approved.”

Mr Sorokin said he has no doubt that the tournament will still go ahead despite a Swiss police investigation into the FIFA vote that awarded Russia the tournament.

He also dismissed criticism from FIFA’s former ethics investigator Michael Garcia, who described them as uncooperative after they declined to hand over computer records, claiming they had been destroyed by a hire company.

“What we know about this is that Swiss authorities are conducting an investigation into this at the request of FIFA, we have not had any requests or official correspondence from any authorities, be that in Europe or elsewhere,” he said.

“If we receive the request, we will consider it.

“We couldn’t have cooperated more [with Garcia].

“It’s very strange that people not find appropriate reflection of that in the report … we had assurances from the investigative commission that they were fully satisfied with our cooperation.

“I have said many times that it’s impossible for us as an organising committee to organise this event if we were constantly thinking about the World Cup being taken away from us.

“We are not in any way concerned that this is somebody’s intention.”

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