Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet outgoing FIFA head Sepp Blatter on the sidelines of a 2018 World Cup draw, the Kremlin said, amid a corruption scandal that threatened to hit Russia’s hosting of the event.
“A meeting with Blatter is expected, it is on the agenda” at the event in Russia’s second city Saint Petersburg, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies on Tuesday.
Russia is set to host the 2018 World Cup, but the bidding process for the tournament, as well as that of Qatar’s 2024 World Cup, has come under scrutiny as part of twin Swiss and US corruption investigations into FIFA’s practices.
Moscow has portrayed the US probe that saw FIFA officials arrested in May as a Western-orchestrated attempt to strip Russia of its right to host the World Cup.
Blatter, who was showered with fake dollar bills by a prankster at a press conference Monday, said he was stepping down last month just days after having been re-elected for a fifth term as FIFA president.
FIFA will vote on his replacement in February.
Putin had congratulated Blatter on his re-election and praised him for his “experience, professionalism and high level of authority”.
The preliminary draw, which will be held at Saint Petersburg’s Konstantin Palace on Saturday night, will determine the groups for continental World Cup qualifiers.
Representatives of some 140 football associations, as well as current and former star players, are expected to attend.