Football: Russian minister slams World Cup 2018 boycott calls

ZURICH (AFP) - Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko on Thursday hit back at calls for a boycott of the 2018 World Cup that his country will host.

"The world sports community is very negative about ideas of boycotting a sports event," he said at Fifa's headquarters.

"Boycotts never have any result, with the exception that athletes prepare half their lives and do not have the opportunity to perform," added the minister, who is a member of the football world governing body's executive committee.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko this week called on countries to consider boycotting the 2018 World Cup if Russia does not pull its troops out of his country. Russia denies it has troops in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow separatists are battling government forces.

"Sport should be beyond politics," Mr Mutko told reporters through a translator. "We host dozens of sports events in Russia yearly," he added.

"Sport is a very peaceful occupation, we should not plunge it into politics."

Russia has had to cut its budget for the World Cup and reduce the size of some planned stadiums because of an economic crisis caused by the collapse of the international oil price and sanctions imposed over Ukraine.

Mr Mutko and other Russian officials gave a presentation to Fifa leaders about World Cup preparations on Wednesday. He said that "no questions" were asked after.

Russia plans to host the 2018 tournament at 12 stadiums in 11 cities across the country.