Germany rejects calls to strip Russia of 2018 World Cup

Fifa chairman Sepp Blatter (L) with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Brazil (13 July 2014) Fifa chairman Sepp Blatter (L) with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Brazil

The German government has rejected calls from allies of Chancellor Angela Merkel to stop Russia hosting the 2018 football World Cup over Ukraine.

Leading MP Michael Fuchs and others have been calling for Russia to be stripped of the championship over the crash of a passenger jet in Ukraine.

Western nations have accused Russia of arming rebels who allegedly shot down the Malaysia Airlines airliner.

All 298 people on board died when it crashed in rebel-held territory.

Russia denies involvement in the attack.

Mr Fuchs argued that stopping Russia hosting the Cup would have a "stronger impact than sanctions".

New EU sanctions against Russia may be announced on Thursday.

Mrs Merkel called for "substantial EU economic sanctions to be imposed against Russia as quickly as possible".

'Too early'

Russia is Germany's biggest trade partner in Europe, and German trade associations have said that new EU sanctions could hurt Germany.

Speaking to German business newspaper Handelblatt Online, Mr Fuchs said that Fifa, football's world governing body, should consider whether it was "appropriate" for Moscow to host the tournament if it could not guarantee air safety.

Crash site of downed Malaysian Airlines plane MH17 in eastern Ukraine Flight MH17 was shot down over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine

He added that economic sanctions would be difficult to implement because of Russia's long borders, which he argued were too porous to block imports.

The interior minister for the state of Hessen, Peter Beuth, agreed with Mr Fuchs, saying the World Cup in Russia would be "unimaginable" if President Vladimir Putin did not fully cooperate with the investigation.

The Dutch football association said it was "too early" to review Russia's right to host the tournament, and that the MH17 investigation should take precedence.

"The association believes it is more appropriate to conduct a discussion over a future World Cup in Russia once the investigation into the disaster has been completed," it said.

EU foreign ministers discussed on Tuesday widening sanctions against Russia.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said a new sanctions list naming individuals and groups would be published by Thursday.

Mr Putin denounced the threat of more sanctions, saying the conflict in Ukraine was the responsibility of his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko.

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