Putin rules out cutting 2018 World Cup venues

MOSCOW (AP) Russian President Vladimir Putin has ruled out cutting any of the 11 host cities for the 2018 World Cup despite repeated recommendations from FIFA head Sepp Blatter.

Russia's tournament organizers were surprised when Blatter suggested at the World Cup in Brazil that two stadiums should be dropped for the 2018 tournament.

Blatter raised the issue again when he traveled to Russia earlier this month for a series of meetings with Putin and local World Cup organizers.

However, Putin told local media Friday that the government discussed the issue and has ''taken the decision not to reduce'' the number of host cities.

Asked whether Russia could be stripped of the hosting rights amid a dispute with UEFA over the status of football clubs in Crimea, Putin simply said: ''I hope not.''

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