Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States of interfering in international soccer. According to him, it is “strange” that U.S. authorities have gotten involved in the FIFA bribery and kickback controversy ahead of Russia hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Putin said in a televised statement that Russia was concerned about the U.S.-led investigation into soccer's global governing body. The Russian president said it was alarming that the scandal might have a negative influence on Russia's plans for the 2018 World Cup.
Putin said that the unprecedented FIFA scandal was an attempt to stop Sepp Blatter from being re-elected as the FIFA president. "This is a blatant violation of the principle of how international organizations function," USA Today quoted Putin as saying. "We are aware of the pressure that he was subjected to in relation to Russia holding the 2018 World Cup."
The Russian president referred to the United States’ stance against former NSA agent Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He said that everyone was aware that Snowden had exposed illegal acts by the U.S. government. Still, no country except Russia was ready to provide asylum to Snowden, Putin said.
Putin added that nobody believed that Assange had committed sex crimes. The WikiLeaks founder has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012. Putin said he suspected that the United States was using illegal methods to achieve its goals in the FIFA case.
A transcript of Putin’s comments has been posted on the Kremlin's website. Swiss prosecutors declared after the arrest of FIFA officials on Wednesday, May 27, that there would be a criminal investigation into Russia and Qatar having been chosen to host the next two World Cups in 2018 and 2022, respectively.
The New York Times reported that Russia had refused to turn over computers used during the bidding process. Russian officials said that all equipment involved during the process was destroyed soon after.
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko dismissed the allegation that his country had bribed FIFA officials to “buy” the privilege of hosting the World Cup in 2018. He said that the investigation into Russia being tapped to host the next World Cup would produce no evidence of Russian wrongdoing.