LONDON: Nick Clegg, Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister, wants Russia stripped of host rights to the 2018 World Cup finals because of the policies which contributed to the air crash disaster in eastern Ukraine writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

A total of 298 passengers and crew died when Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down and western politicians have accused Russia President Vladimir Putin for encouraging separatist rebels.

Clegg has now followed up insisting that the “beautiful game” could not be “marred by the ugly aggression of Russia”, claiming it was “unthinkable” that the tournament could go ahead in the country.

FIFA, the world football federation, has already rejected calls from some German politicians to review the decision, claiming the competition could be a “force for good.” That view was echoed by Greg Dyke, chairman of the Football Association, in the BBC Radio programme Any Questions on Friday night.

Russia was awarded the World Cup in December 2010 at the climax of a scandal-hit bidding process which also saw the 2022 finals handed to the Gulf state of Qatar.

Clegg said: “Vladimir Putin himself has to understand that he can’t have his cake and eat it. He can’t constantly, you know, 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.

“That’s why I’ve come to the view that if he doesn’t change course it’s just not on, the idea that Russia will host the World Cup in 2018. You can’t have this – the beautiful game marred by the ugly aggression of Russia on the Russian-Ukrainian border.

“Not only would Vladimir Putin exploit it, I think it would make the rest of the world look so weak and so insincere about our protestations about Vladimir Putin’s behaviour if we’re not prepared to pull the plug.”

Until now Russia’s preparations have continued virtually unremarked because of the fuss over Qatar.

Two weeks ago in Rio de Janeiro, on the eve of the 2014 World Cup Final, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko dismissed concerns about the tension over Ukraine affecting the World Cup hosting.

He said: “I can’t see any major issues. It [Ukraine] is a different subject and will not influence preparations for the World Cup whatsoever.”

That was on July 12. The air crash occurred five days later.