BERLIN: Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has prefaced meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin with a call for European nations to boycott the 2018 World Cup in a protest at Russian military aggression writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Poroshenko was speaking in the context of a demand for tougher sanctions against Russia over the annexation of Crimea and the breaking of the Minsk Agreement for a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.

Poroshenko, reported by Bild Zeitung, said: “There must be further sanctions. In any case, the current penalties should now be extended to the end of the year.”

Future ramped-up sanctions included the sporting realm and the finals being hosted by Russia in 2018.

Poroshenko added that he preferred to keep football and politics separate but this was not possible when Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk were having to play home games 750 miles away in Lviv because Donetsk was occupied by pro-Russian separatists.

He said: “I think there has to be discussion of a boycott of this World Cup. As long as there are Russian troops in Ukraine, I believe that a World Cup in that country is unthinkable.”

FIFA dismissed Poroshenko’s comments, stating: “[FIFA] deplores any form of violence and will continue to use its tournaments to promote dialogue, understanding and peace among peoples.

“History has shown so far that boycotting sport events or a policy of isolation or confrontation are not the most effective ways to solve problems.

“FIFA is convinced that, through football, particularly the FIFA World Cup and its international spotlight, we can achieve positive change in the world, but football cannot be seen as a solution for all issues, particularly those related to world politics.

“We have seen that the FIFA World Cup can be a force for good and FIFA believes this will be the case for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.”

Poroshenko’s comments followed suggestions last week from FIFA’s anti-racism chief, Jeffrey Webb, that discrimination issues were also a serious cloud hanging over the Russian World Cup hosting.

Webb, a vice-president of the world federation and head of the central and northern American confederation, said: “Russia’s a big challenge. We’ve met with Sports Ministers Vitaly Mutko, who is a member of the FIFA executive, and he has publicly said: ‘It’s a challenge, it’s obviously a problem’.

“They are going to start addressing it. We are going to work with them hand-in-hand.”

At the weekend Hulk, the Brazilian striker of Zenit St Petersburg, was reported the subect of racist chants by Torpedo Moscow fans.