World Cup - German politicians concerned over Russia 2018

Several senior politicians in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling conservative party raised the possibility on Wednesday of stripping Russia of its right to host the 2018 soccer World Cup after the downing of a passenger plane over Ukraine.

Reuters
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Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speaks to the media during a news conference after the announcement that Russia will host the FIFA World Cup 2018 (Reuters)

Western countries have blamed pro-Russian separatists battling Kiev's forces in eastern Ukraine for the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 17 in which 298 people were killed.

The European Union has threatened to impose harsher economic sanctions on Russia, though on Tuesday ministers delayed action for a few days.

Taking away Russia's right to hold the soccer tournament may have significantly stronger impact than more economic sanctions, said Michael Fuchs, deputy head of the conservative bloc in the German parliament.

"FIFA football association should think about whether Moscow is an appropriate host if it can't even guarantee safe airways," Fuchs told Handelsblatt Online, adding that Germany and France could take over the tournament if needed.

Economic sanctions would be difficult to implement due to Russia's long borders, which are too porous to effectively seal off imports, Fuchs said.

German trade associations have said new EU sanctions could hurt business between Russia and Germany, Europe's biggest economy.

The interior minister of the state of Hesse agreed with Fuchs.

"If (Russian President Vladimir) Putin doesn't actively cooperate on clearing up the plane crash, the soccer World Cup in Russia in 2018 is unimaginable", Peter Beuth told Germany's top-selling daily Bild.

Stephan Mayer, a member of Bavaria's conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), also said withdrawing the World Cup from Russia "should not be taboo".

Germany's DFB football association was not immediately available to comment on Wednesday on the politicians' comments. Germany won this year's World Cup tournament in Brazil.

The Malaysian plane had been flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down near Donetsk, a stronghold of pro-Russian rebels.

In the Netherlands, where many of the passengers came from, the Dutch football association said on Wednesday it was too early to review Russia's hosting of the 2018 World Cup.

"The Dutch football association is aware that a future World Cup in Russia stirs great emotion among all football fans and relatives in the Netherlands," it said in a statement.

"The association believes it is more appropriate to conduct a discussion over a future World Cup in Russia at a later moment, once the investigation into the disaster has been completed."

England's Football Association chairman also said on Tuesday it was premature to talk of moving the World Cup from Russia.

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