Russia should lose 2018 soccer World Cup over Ukraine: UK deputy PM

Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:28am EDT
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By Mike Collett and Andrew Osborn

LONDON (Reuters) - Russia should be stripped of the right to host the 2018 soccer World Cup unless President Vladimir Putin stops destabilizing Ukraine, Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said on Sunday, warning the world would look weak if it did not act.

Clegg, the most senior British politician to call for such action, said Putin's behavior toward Ukraine was "beyond the pale" and had reached "a tipping point".

He spoke out as fighting around the site of MH17, the Malaysian airliner downed in eastern Ukraine on July 17, prevented a visit by international experts and as the European Union weighed new sanctions on Russia.

"If there's one thing that Vladimir Putin cares about, as far as I can see, it's his sense of status," Clegg told The Sunday Times newspaper.

"Maybe reminding him that you can't retain the same status in the world if you ignore the rest of the world, maybe that will have some effect on his thinking."

The intervention by Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in Britain's two-party coalition, put pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron, the leader of the ruling Conservatives, to clarify his position on the matter.

A spokeswoman for Cameron told Reuters the British leader was not in favor of taking the World Cup away from Russia at this stage, but signaled his position could change.

"The prime minister does not believe we should reach immediately for boycotts, but it is also not surprising, given Russian behavior, that people are starting to raise the issue," the spokeswoman said.   Continued...

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, points during a question and answer session after delivering a speech on international development, in London May 28, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Winning