MOSCOW: Russia is going ahead with preparations for the 2018 World Cup despite the shock resignation of FIFA boss Sepp Blatter amid a high-profile corruption scandal, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.
“The main thing is Russia is continuing preparations for the 2018 World Cup,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman told reporters.
“All plans are being implemented, work is under way,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
Putin last month accused Washington of trying to oust Blatter after he resisted pressure to stop Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup.
His spokesman admitted that Tuesday’s resignation of the longtime world football boss had “of course” caught the Kremlin by surprise.
“We still do not have any information about what was the reason for this resignation,” Peskov said.
“We proceed from the fact that Mr Blatter will perform his duties until a new congress is held so the work is continuing, cooperation with FIFA is continuing.”
The 79-year-old Swiss official quit just days after being re-elected to a fifth term as president of FIFA on Friday amid an FBI corruption investigation that has zeroed in on the football chief.
Blatter has repeatedly pleaded his innocence and that of FIFA.
Speculation has mounted over the past days over whether the 2018 World Cup in Russia may now be reconsidered.
Blatter will remain in charge until a special congress can choose a new leader.
Asked if the Kremlin feared that the 2018 World Cup may be reconsidered, Peskov said: “We do not know who (will be) the new head of FIFA. He will appear not tomorrow nor the day after tomorrow but later, so let’s not hurry.”
The Kremlin has lavished vast sums on hosting international sporting events — most notably the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi — that critics say are used to burnish Putin’s image.