Question: Reports have appeared today about a major scandal at FIFA – the organisation in charge of football. It was accused of corruption and 14 employees were arrested. Do you think all this could have any bearing on the 2018 World Cup in Russia?
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: I do not know. This is not our business. However, I do have an opinion on the matter, of course. As we all know, on Friday FIFA was to elect its president, and Mr Blatter has every chance to be re-elected. We are aware of the pressure that was put on him to prevent the 2018 World Cup in Russia. We know of his views, which have nothing to do with any special relations between FIFA and Russia. This is his general principled position: it’s not right to mix sports and politics. Moreover, he believes sport should have a positive influence on politics and serve as a platform for dialogue, for reconciliation and a search for solutions. I believe this is the right position.
As for the arrests that were made, it seems strange in the very least as the arrests were conducted on the basis of corruption charges made by the American side. Whom did they charge? International officers. It may be possible that some of them did something wrong, I do not know, but the USA definitely have nothing to do with this. These officers are not United States’ citizens, and if anything did happen, it did not happen on the territory of the United States and the USA have nothing to do with it. This is yet another obvious attempt to spread their jurisdiction to other states. I have no doubt that this is obviously an attempt to prevent Mr Blatter’s re-election to the post of FIFA President, which is a grave violation of the principles that international organisations function on.
Meanwhile, according to our media, the United States Attorney General has already stated that these officers of the FIFA executive committee have committed a crime, as though he as a prosecutor is unaware of the presumption of innocence. Only a court can find a person guilty or not guilty, and only after that can anyone say anything, even if we assume that the United States have a reason to extradite those people, though the actions occurred on third party territory.
We are aware of the position of the United States regarding the former special services employee Mr Snowden, who was a National Security Agency employee and who made public the illegal practice of the United States practically all over the world, including tapping the phones of foreign leaders. Everybody is discussing this, including in Europe, but nobody wants to grant him asylum, guarantee his security, nobody wants to quarrel with their partners, with their senior partners.
This may be understandable, as Mr Snowden is a former security service employee and a citizen of the United States. What about Mr Assange, who has been forced to hide at a foreign embassy for several years? This is almost like being imprisoned. What is he persecuted for? For sexual crimes? Nobody believes that, you do not believe that either. He is being persecuted for spreading the information he received from US military regarding the actions of the USA in the Middle East, including Iraq.
Why did I bring this up now? Unfortunately, our American partners use these methods for their own ulterior purposes. They are illegally persecuting people. I do not rule out the possibility that the same goes for this situation with FIFA. Although I do not know what this will result in, but the fact that this is happening on the eve of elections of the FIFA president leads one to think so.