Russia will stage the 2018 soccer World Cup and will host it well, the Russian Football Union's honorary president told Reuters on Monday, dismissing calls by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for his country's allies to boycott the event.
Vyacheslav Koloskov, a former FIFA vice-president, said attempts to disrupt the tournament would fail, just as they had with last year's Sochi Winter Olympics after some observers objected to Russia's anti-gay propaganda laws.
“In terms of a boycott, unfortunately Poroshenko is not the first person to talk about this,” Koloskov told Reuters by telephone.
“There were also attempts to boycott the Winter Olympics. No one was able to do anything then and I think exactly the same will happen with regards to the World Cup.
“Sepp Blatter often says that politics is politics and football is football. Of course he will not allow a boycott to happen. In Ukraine they don't know anymore what they are trying to achieve. First one thing, then another, then a third thing...
“They are not managing to achieve anything. We will host the 2018 World Cup and we will host it well.”
“I would not want to compare things with the 1980 Olympics when a number of countries boycotted it due to political motives,” he added.
Koloskov said there was now a lot of money involved, adding that if a country qualified and decided not to take part they could be banned from the next World Cup.
“FIFA is very strict in this aspect,” he said. “I don't think anyone will be risking a boycott given the likely consequences.”
FIFA did not immediately reply to a request for comment, although President Blatter said last September that “a boycott in sport never has had any benefit”.
Blatter has also said that Russia and Ukraine might be put into different groups at the 2018 World Cup finals if the Ukrainians qualify and relations between the two countries do not improve.
Poroshenko had used social media to voice his views, posting on his personal Twitter feed: “While there are Russian forces in Ukraine, I believe that holding the World Cup in that country (Russia) is not possible.”
In an interview with German newspaper Bild, he urged his country's allies to consider a boycott if Moscow does not pull all its troops out of his country's territory.
Poroshenko told Bild that while he preferred to keep soccer and politics separate, this was not possible when Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk were having to play 1,200 km (750 miles) away in Lviv because Donetsk was occupied by pro-Russian separatists.
“I think there has to be discussion of a boycott of this World Cup,” said Poroshenko, who was in Berlin on an official visit on Monday.
The Ukrainian president is to ask Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel to push for tougher sanctions on Russia because of what he described as repeated separatist violations of the cease-fire which she helped broker last month.