- World Cup
Europe discusses Russia World Cup boycott
European Union officials have discussed boycotting the 2018 World Cup in Russia in retaliation for the country's military involvement in Ukraine.
The measure is part of a potential expansion of sanctions against Moscow if the violence in eastern Ukraine, widely believed to be fuelled by Russia's military incursions and its arming of rebel fighters, continues.
A potential boycott of the World Cup is the latest in a list of threats against Russia and comes in the run-up to the Nato summit in Wales tomorrow.
With separatists continuing to advance in east Ukraine and Kiev claiming that Russian troops had appeared in cities across the region, the EU and Nato are preparing to hit back diplomatically.
As well as potentially banning footballers from playing in the World Cup, Western officials may also place a ban on all Russian state-owned companies from raising finance in the EU and freeze out Russian athletes, artists and businessmen from international events.
Germany's president Joachim Gauck said yesterday that Russia had "effectively severed its partnership" with Europe, while Britain's foreign secretary Philip Hammond said: "Russia has chosen the role of pariah, rather than partner."
Russian President Vladimir Putin prides himself on his country's ability to deliver grand sporting occasions. The 2014 Winter Olympics, held in the Black Sea city of Sochi, became the most expensive Olympic Games in history when it cost Russia almost £31 billion to stage.
The budget for the 2018 World Cup is expected to be a more modest £12bn. There will be 12 stadiums in 11 cities: Moscow, Kaliningrad, St Petersburg, Volgograd, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Saransk, Rostov-on-Don, Sochi and Yekaterinburg.
There is a history of sporting boycotts between the West and Russia, in the form of the Soviet Union. The United States refused to send athletes to the 1980 Olympics in Moscow after Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan. In response, Eastern Bloc countries boycotted the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.