Delay Russia World Cup over poisoning, says Labour MP

Vladimir Putin with the 2018 World Cup trophyImage copyright AFP
Image caption The Russian World Cup opens in Moscow in June

The 2018 World Cup in Russia should be delayed or held in a different country, a Welsh Labour MP has said.

Stephen Kinnock made the comments after Prime Minister Theresa May said it was “highly likely” Russia was responsible for the poisoning of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

The MP suggested holding the football tournament as planned would almost be a vindication of how the country behaves.

Russia has said the claims it is responsible are “unfounded”.

Former double agent Mr Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury city centre on 4 March. On Tuesday morning they remain in a critical but stable condition in hospital.

Image caption Stephen Kinnock said Russia’s behaviour was “unacceptable”

The tournament is due to open in Moscow on 14 June.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales, Mr Kinnock admitted that such action on the World Cup by football governing body FIFA was unlikely, but he said it would be better than for England to simply unilaterally withdraw.

The MP for Aberavon, who previously worked in Russia for the British Council cultural organisation, told the Good Morning Wales programme: “I have to say whilst I think this may well sound really quite unrealistic, I think it would be much better to have a co-ordinated action with FIFA, looking even at the possibility of delaying the world cup and having it in a different country.”

“What the Russians have done here is completely unacceptable – do we really think that just in a few months we will almost be vindicating the way that they behave by having a celebration of football, and the beautiful game, in their country,” he added.

Image copyright EPA/ Yulia Skripal/Facebook
Image caption Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33 were found in Salisbury city centre on 4 March

“I think if we were to just withdraw unilaterally… in this case the English team were to withdrawal, I think that wouldn’t quite be the right way to go about this,” Mr Kinnock added.

“Whereas a co-ordinated action across FIFA, that would be really felt in Russia and I think this is a very serious thing that has happened and there needs to be a serious response.”

Former Liberal Democrat leader and former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who was speaking at an event in Cardiff on Tuesday night, said: “I was always against the World Cup going to Russia in the first place.

“You can’t just carry on as normal with the World Cup. You can’t carry on sending our teams as normal to the world cup if it is proven that this was a state directed attack – of course not.”

Mr Clegg, who has remained fully in support of the UK remaining in the EU, said: “My worry at the moment is, it is just harder I’m afraid for the UK to rely upon the support of other governments in this brewing crisis in our relations with Russia, when clearly in Donald Trump we have a US president who, to put it mildly is not moving very fast to show his support for his oldest ally in Britain.”

“Because we’re involved in this increasingly acrimonious Brexit negotiations it is just harder to rely upon the goodwill of EU countries in the past.

He added: “If you are sitting there in the Kremlin what do you worry about more? European Union sanctions imposed by one of the largest economic blocs in the world, or just British sanctions.”


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