LONDON - Russia should forfeit the right to stage the 2018 World Cup finals following the destruction of the Malaysian Airlines jet in Ukraine, according to Britain's deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.
The Liberal Democrat leader told the Sunday Times that Russia should not host the event after pro-Russian separatists were implicated by western nations in the shooting down of the jet over eastern Ukraine on July 17 with the loss of 298 lives.
Earlier this week, some German politicians said the World Cup should be moved from Russia, while FIFA rejected those sentiments by saying hosting the event there could be a "force for good".
Almost 200 Dutch citizens lost their lives in the crash and the Dutch FA said it would meet in due course to decide if it would take part in the qualifying competition for the finals in Russia.
Clegg told the British newspaper, which has recently published a series of articles alleging widespread corruption surrounding the award of the 2022 finals to Qatar, that threatening Russia by withdrawing the World Cup would be "a very potent political and symbolic sanction".
"If there's one thing that (President) Vladimir Putin cares about, as far as I can see, it's his sense of status," he said. "Maybe reminding him that you can't retain the same status in the world if you ignore the rest of the world, maybe that will have some effect on his thinking." Clegg said world leaders would look "so weak and so insincere" if the World Cup was allowed to go ahead in Russia.
"Vladimir Putin himself has to understand that he can't have his cake and eat it," Clegg said. "He can't constantly push the patience of the international community beyond breaking point, destabilise a neighbouring country, protect these armed separatists in the east of Ukraine and still have the privilege and honour of receiving all the accolades in 2018 for being the host nation of the World Cup."
He added: "You can't have this - the beautiful game marred by the ugly aggression of Russia on the Russian-Ukrainian border." In a statement issued on Friday, FIFA said: "FIFA deplores any form of violence and will continue to use its tournaments to promote dialogue, understanding and peace among peoples.
"We have seen that the FIFA World Cup can be a force for good and FIFA believes this will be the case for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia." Clegg also said that Russia should not host a Formula One Grand Prix in October but F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has said it will go ahead as planned.