Russia brushes off sanctions impact on World Cup
MOSCOW (AP) Sanctions against Russia and the falling value of the ruble will not drive up the cost of the 2018 World Cup, the head of the country's organizing committee said Thursday.
The United States and European Union have targeted Russian officials, oligarchs and companies with sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine.
The Russian ruble has fallen to record lows against the dollar and euro this year against the background of the sanctions and a sharp drop in the price of oil.
However, World Cup organizing committee head Alexei Sorokin denied the increased cost of importing construction materials would drive up the 664 billion ruble ($14.3 billion) budget.
Sorokin said costs will be kept in check because ''in the main, Russian materials will be used'' to build the stadiums, rather than imports.
''No revisions to the budget are being considered,'' Sorokin told the World Football Forum in Moscow.
Sorokin added that the budget would not fund any white elephants.
''Nothing will be built that is specially for the World Cup and not needed in normal life,'' he said.
Alexei Milovanov, the head of the state-controlled Arena 2018 company, which was set up to monitor the stadium construction, insisted sanctions and economic instability were having no effect.
''There's a program, the funds will be there, the construction has begun,'' Milovanov said. ''The costs are fixed. They're not linked to the dollar.''
The Russian government's budget figure does not include certain projects linked to the tournament, including large parts of state railway expansion plans valued at almost $15 billion. Those are being conducted for the World Cup, Russian Railways has said.
The falling ruble has caused financial problems for many Russian football clubs, whose players typically have contracts in euros or dollars. In effect, the ruble's slump means some salaries may have risen by a third this year alone in ruble terms.
Spartak Moscow owner Leonid Fedun last week warned that five Russian league clubs were in severe financial difficulties as a result.