KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Controversial Vitaly Mutko has lost his last link with Russia’s organisation of the World Cup finals in June and July.

In January Mutko, a Deputy Prime Minister, handed over leadership of the local organising committee of the 2018 World Cup to protege Alexey Sorokin in the wake of continuing pressure over his role as Sports Minister in the doping scandal. Days earlier Mutko had also stood down from one of his other positions as president of the Russian Football Union.

Vitaly Mutko . . . vanishing from view

Mutko, 59, had said last month that he would remain responsible for government liaison with the organising operation and visited several stadia construction sites in late February in that role.

However today he was replaced by Arkady Dvorkovich, another Deputy Prime Minister.

Dvorkovich, 45, is an official of the Russian Chess Federation and chairman of the board of Russian Railways.He was appointed a Deputy Prime Minister in May 2012.

FIFA has acknowledged the change of personnel. A statement from the world football federation said: “FIFA has recognised the appointment of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich as the chairman of the organising committee and we will continue to work closely with the leadership of the committee through Dvorkovich and ceo Alexei Sorokin on all operational issues before the 2018 World Cup.”

Mutko, a former president of Zenit St Petersburg, was head of the RFU between 2005 and 2009 and then returned in 2015 amid financial chaos in place of Nikolai Tolstykh. He was re-elected in September 2016 for a new four-year term.

He then stepped down – temporarily, it was reported – from leadership of the RFU while he prepared an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against a lifetime Olympic ban over the doping scandal imposed by the IOC.