Britain is pushing for Russia to be stripped of the right to host the 2018 World Cup under tough new political sanctions to be suggested by David Cameron at a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels.
The Prime Minister, with growing support across the EU, wants Russia to be ostracised from high-status international events, such as the football tournament, to teach Vladimir Putin that he will become a pariah unless he pulls troops out of Ukraine.
“The idea of taking the World Cup away from Russia has come up in talks between European leaders. Britain especially has pushed it as a way of taking broader and more imaginative measures against Russia,” said a senior European diplomat.
European diplomats who are currently working on the EU’s response to Russia are drawing up a list of “symbolic” political sanctions aimed at President Putin’s highly developed sense of prestige, robbing him of the high-profile sporting events and barring him from participating in international summits.
“The existing sanctions have not yet changed Russian behaviour and we need to be more imaginative,” said another senior EU official involved with coordinating the European response to Russia.
“We need to have tougher sanctions with new economic measures as well as looking at new options, for example, not holding the World Cup in Russia, dismissing Putin from the G20 or ASEM meetings between Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.”
Mr Cameron and other EU leaders are aware that the Russian leader fears losing popular support if he cannot hold the 2018 World Cup which is already complicated by Russia’s intention to play matches in Crimea, illegally invaded and annexed by Mr Putin in March.
Speaking yesterday (FRI), Mr Putin expressed his “hope” that Russia would not lose the right to hold the football tournament as pressure grows on Fifa, the sport’s governing body, to punish Russia for invading Ukraine.
“Fifa has already said soccer and sport are outside politics and I think that is the right approach,” said the Russian President.
In July Fifa insisted that it remained committed to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and claimed that “boycotting sport events or a policy of isolation or confrontation are not the most effective ways to solve problems”.
EU leaders are also expected to give the green light to new economic sanctions against Russia including measures to paralyse its banking system and to hit the country’s immense mineral wealth.
Mr Cameron will call on the EU to bring its sanctions into line with US measures that target many Russian oligarchs close to Mr Putin and companies with links to the Russian state.
Britain is also pressing for Russia to be blocked from accessing the Swift banking transaction system which is one of its main connections to the international financial system.
Additionally, the EU is discussing bans on the import of Russian luxury goods, such as caviar and vodka, including Russia’s economically vital diamond monopoly Alrosa in sanctions for the first time.
The EU last year bought non-industrial diamonds worth as much as much as EUR2.5billion last year, with 97 per cent of the trade controlled by Alrosa, which is run by Yury Trutnev, Russia’s deputy prime minister and is 44 per cent state owned.