Vladimir Putin wades into FIFA storm, says arrests bid to take 2018 World Cup away from Russia

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that the arrest of FIFA officials was an attempt to prevent FIFA president Sepp Blatter's re-election and to prevent the 2018 World Cup from being held in his country.

Putin's remarks came after seven FIFA senior officials were apprehended on Wednesday - six of them at their hotel in Zurich - on charges of corruption, reports Efe.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin

"In my opinion, the election for FIFA president on Friday must be held as scheduled and Blatter has every chance of being re-elected," Putin told reporters on Thursday, noting that there were pressures exerted on Blatter to rescind Russia's hosting of the 2018 World Cup.

Moreover, Putin saw the FIFA arrests as part of the US's political agenda: "This is yet another blatant attempt (by the United States) to extend its jurisdiction to other states."

The Swiss police arrested the FIFA officials at the request of the US judiciary on charges of fraud and money-laundering, among other allegations.

They will be detained in Switzerland until a decision is made regarding their extradition to the US.

Blatter, who has led FIFA since 1998, will seek a fifth term in Friday's election against Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, the only rival candidate remaining after Dutch football association president Michael van Praag and Portuguese former player Luis Figo withdrew last week.

FIFA said Russia and Qatar will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, respectively. However, the organisation asked the Swiss public prosecutor to investigate suspicions of corruption linked to the location selection process.

FIFA spokesperson Walter De Gregorio said in a press conference in Zurich on Wednesday that "Russia and Qatar will be played, this is fact today, this is what I can tell you, not more not less."

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