MOSCOW (REUTERS) - Russia's deputy prime minister criticised state-controlled airline Aeroflot's sponsorship of English soccer club Manchester United on Tuesday, saying it appeared to show the firm favoured international over domestic interests.
Earlier in July, Aeroflot signed a five-year contract for an undisclosed sum with the English soccer champions, in a deal the airline's chief executive said would promote Aeroflot's brand worldwide.
President Vladimir Putin has urged the airline to invest in Russian planes and on Tuesday Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin suggested Aeroflot's Manchester United deal was struck at the expense of investment in domestic aircraft.
"Aeroflot prefers Anglo-Saxon football and basketball clubs to our planes? I might invite them for an intimate talk," said Mr Rogozin, known for his anti-Western rhetoric, on his Russian Twitter account.
"State-owned companies should buy ... our (Russian) aircraft. I will hold a meeting of producers and buyers on Aug 14," he said in a subsequent post.
The airline declined to comment and did not say if its executives had received a formal invitation to discuss the soccer sponsorship deal with Mr Rogozin.
Aeroflot does not fly to Manchester in northern England, but the contract will allow the 90-year-old airline to promote itself on pitch-side advertising boards at the club's Old Trafford ground and on the club's website.
The airline is already a sponsor of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, Russian soccer side CSKA Moscow and the Brooklyn Nets basketball team in the United States, which is owned by Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov.