KEIR RADNEDGE in ST PETERSBURG: Russian President Vladimir Putin will take part at some stage in the draw ceremony for the qualifying competition of the 2018 World Cup here.

Putin’s likely presence had only been assumed but now it has been confirmed by his presidential office in Moscow.

Press press secretary Dmitry Peskov said: “In St Petersburg, in the afternoon, the President will hold a meeting with [FIFA president Sepp] Blatter. Then, together, they will take part in the draw ceremony. The President will speak and so will Mr Blatter.”

The draw is being staged at the Konstantinovsky Palace at Strelna, half an hour’s drive from the centre of St Petersburg and a favourite meetings venue for Putin. The show will be broadcast in more than 100 countries.

Russian football will be represented at the draw by Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko who is also a FIFA exective committee member and chairman of the Russian 2018 World Cup organising committee.

Veteran on duty

The Russian Football Union will be represented by interim president Nikita Simonian who played for the Soviet Union on its World Cup finals debut in Sweden in 1958. Russia has no national coach after the recent parting of the ways with Italian Fabio Capello.

Mutko told Russian media that one of his personal goals for the World Cup is to improve his command of English so he can comminicate more effectively with his colleagues within the world game.

The latest ESPN ranking of the most powerful people in world football placed Mutko at 35, only the third-placed Russian after Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (13) and director Marina Granovskaya (24).

No1 in the ESPN ranking was UEFA president Michel Platini with outgoing FIFA leader Sepp Blatter dropping down to eight.

# # # #