Russian president Vladimir Putin says Wednesday’s arrests of Fifa officials is merely another example of the USA “meddling” in affairs outside its jurisdiction.
The US Department of Justice, in collaboration with the Swiss police, made a wave of arrests in Zurich following a three-year FBI investigation into alleged corruption at football’s world governing body.
However, Putin says the arrests were little more an attempt by the American authorities to extend their power across the globe.
“It looks very strange that the arrests are carried out on the request of the USA,” he said.
“They are accused of corruption – who is? International officials. I suppose that someone broke some rules, I don’t know. But definitely, it’s got nothing to do with the USA.
“Those officials are not US citizens. If something happened it was not in the US and it’s nothing to do with them.”
Russia were handed the hosting rights to World Cup 2018 in a controversial double vote in December 2010 that also saw Fifa award the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
Wednesday’s events have led to widespread calls for a re-vote, and a postponement of Friday’s Fifa presidential elections, in which current incumbent Sepp Blatter is bidding for a fifth four-year term.
Putin, though, believes that the US authorities are trying to depose the Swiss.
“It’s a clear attempt not to allow Mr Blatter to be re-elected as president of Fifa, which is a great violation of the operating principles of international organisations,” he added.
“Unfortunately, our American partners use such methods to achieve their selfish aims and illegally persecute people. I do not rule out that in the case of Fifa, it’s exactly the same.”