MOSCOW - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will
fly to FIFA headquarters in Zurich if Russia wins the right to
host the 2018 World Cup later on Thursday, his spokesman said.
"If Russia's bid to host the World Cup wins, the Prime
Minister will be ready to fly out to Zurich," the spokesman told
local media on Thursday.
The announcement will be made at 1500 GMT.
Putin, who was credited with helping win the 2014 Winter
Olympics hosting rights for Sochi, was due to be on a domestic
engagement in the Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad on
Thursday but his plane was turned back because of bad weather,
Reuters sources said.
On Wednesday, Putin had criticised the voting process,
saying his country had faced "unscrupulous competition" in the
bid to host the World Cup.
Putin, in an apparent blast at British media, said FIFA
officials were being smeared and called on other political
leaders to follow his example and stay away from FIFA's vote on
Thursday to choose the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
"We have unfortunately witnessed a campaign against members
of the FIFA executive - filth and compromising material has
been poured over them. I see this as unscrupulous competition
ahead of the vote," he told ministers in Moscow on Wednesday.
"I would have liked to have gone myself but under these
conditions, I have decided to refrain from travelling out of
respect for the members of FIFA, the members of the FIFA
executive, so that they can make a decision calmly without any
pressure from the outside.
"Russia wants and hopes and has the ability, including
financial, to host this largest of tournaments. If we are given
the chance we will do this in the best possible way."
Russia is one of three European bids - the others are
England and joint campaigns from Spain and Portugal and from
Netherlands and Belgium - competing for the right to stage the
potentially lucrative 2018 tournament.
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