Russia should be stripped of the 2018 World Cup in the wake of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, says Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
He said it was “unthinkable” at present that the tournament could go ahead in the country blamed by the West for supplying arms to pro-Russian separatists suspected of shooting down the jet.
Football’s world governing body Fifa this week ruled out calls from some German politicians for Russia to be boycotted, insisting the tournament could be “a force for good”.
But Mr Clegg told The Sunday Times that allowing it to go ahead without a change of course by Russian President Vladimir Putin would make the world look “so weak and so insincere” in its condemnation of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for the rebels.
“If there’s one thing that Vladimir Putin cares about, as far as I can see, it’s his sense of status,” he said.
“Maybe reminding him that you can’t retain the same status in the world if you ignore the rest of the world, maybe that will have some effect on his thinking.”
Russia has reacted angrily to additional sanctions imposed by the EU, saying they would hamper co-operation on security issues and undermine the fight against terrorism and organised crime.
Russia’s foreign ministry also accused the US of contributing to the conflict in Ukraine through its support for the pro-Western government in Kiev.
It comes as 30 Dutch forensic experts head to the crash site in eastern Ukraine, despite intensifying fighting in the area between Ukrainian government forces and the rebels.
Malaysia says it has secured an agreement with the separatists to allow international police to enter the site.
Officers would be allowed access to the area to provide protection for international crash investigators to recover human remains and establish the cause of the disaster.
Meanwhile, a Malaysia Airlines official has called for the creation of a new body to decide which flight paths are safe following the downing of the Boeing 777-200 in which all 298 people on board died.
Hugh Dunleavy, the company’s commercial director, said airlines could no longer rely on decisions made by existing industry bodies on which volatile regions are secure to fly over.
Despite flying over a conflict zone, MH17’s flight path had been approved by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the Ukrainian authorities and the European airspace service provider Eurocontrol, Mr Dunleavy said.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he called for airlines and existing aviation bodies to “review existing processes and set more stringent standards”.
“Ultimately, we need one body to be the arbiter of where we can fly,” he said.
“This tragedy has taught us that despite following the guidelines and advice set out by the governing bodies, the skies above certain territories are simply not safe.
“For the sake of passenger and crew safety we need to insist on a higher level of authority.”