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Putin sees FIFA officials' arrests as US attempt to prevent Sepp Blatter's reelection

May 28, 2015, 12:08 UTC+3
According to Putin, FIFA president Joseph Blatter came under pressure when the federation voted for granting Russia the right to host the 2018 World Soccer Cup Finals
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FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Russian President Vladimir Putin, July 2014

FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Russian President Vladimir Putin, July 2014

© ITAR-TASS/Alexey Nikolsky

MOSCOW, May 28. /TASS/. Recent arrests of FIFA high-ranking officials in Switzerland upon the request of the US authorities are very strange and seem as another attempt of the United States of expanding its jurisdiction on other countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

FIFA plunged into the unprecedented corruption scandal on the eve of the organization’s annual congress in Zurich on May 28-29 with current President Sepp Blatter expected to be re-elected on Friday for another four-year term.

"This is another obvious attempt of expanding one’s own jurisdiction on other countries," Putin told journalists. "And I have no doubts that this is certainly an attempt to prevent re-election of [Sepp] Blatter for the post of FIFA president, which is a blunt violation of international organizations’ principle of functioning."

The corruption scandal flared up in FIFA on Wednesday morning as seven of the organization’s high-ranking officials were arrested in Switzerland on bribery, money laundering and corruption charges. The arrests of the seven FIFA top officials were made by the Swiss police at the request from the US authorities and they are now facing extradition to the United States.

"As for the arrests, they look very strange, to say the least, since they were made upon the request of the American part on charges of corruption," the Russian president said.

 "We may assume that some of them violated something and I do not know about it but the United States has nothing to do with it," Putin said adding that the people arrested in Switzerland are international officials.

"They, the officials, are not the citizens of the United States and if some kind of a violation did take place, it was not on the US territory and the United States has nothing to do with it," the Russian president added.

On top of all, he said, "according to our media reports say, the US prosecutor already stated that the FIFA officials at the issue committed a crime, as if the prosecutor does not know about such thing as the presumption of innocence."

"It must be proved in a court whether a person is guilty or not and only afterwards such things can be said," the president added.

Putin recalled the story regarding American intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is accused by the United States of leaking information on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) worldwide secret surveillance programs to media.

"Nobody wants to grant him asylum, to guarantee his security, nobody wants to quarrel with their partners, with their superior partners," he said.

In 2013, Snowden was granted a temporary asylum in Russia after spending more than a month in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport. In August of 2014, as the asylum expired, Snowden received a three-year residency permit in Russia.

"Why does [Julian] Assange has to hide in an embassy of a foreign country for several years already? He is being persecuted for circulating information, which he obtained from American military on the US army actions in the Middle East, including in Iraq," Putin said.

 "Unfortunately, our American partners use such methods to achieve their sordid ambitions, they are doing it illegally and persecute people," Putin said. "I do not rule out that the same case is currently in place regarding FIFA and I do not know how it will all end up. But considering all the current developments on the eve of FIFA presidential elections makes me think exactly about it."

WikiLeaks founder Assange has been staying in the territory of the Ecuadoran embassy in London, which granted him political asylum, for almost three years.

The Australian fled to the embassy in June 2012 after a British court ruled to extradite him to Sweden over accusations of rape and sexual molestation.

Although a European arrest warrant was issued in December 2010, no official charges have been brought against Assange as under Sweden’s laws, the suspect should first be questioned during a preliminary inquiry. Assange considers the accusations are a pretext to eventually sending him to the United States, which is seeking to get hold of him for leaking classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010. The Australian could face the death penalty in the US.

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