Russia slams UK over 2018 boycott talk

England manager Gareth Southgate after the draw for the finals in December

England manager Gareth Southgate after the draw for the finals in December Credit Getty images

Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, remain in a critical condition after they were exposed to what United Kingdom authorities have described as a "nerve agent" in the English city of Salisbury earlier this month.

When British foreign secretary Boris Johnson first raised the notion of England boycotting this summer's World Cup in protest at what has been dubbed spy-gate, he was roundly condemned and his office was quick to issue a clarification saying he meant officials and politicians rather than the team itself.

The British government it would respond decisively to any Russian government's involvement, in the wake of the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in England.

Russian Federation further accused Germany's Bild newspaper of following the same "orders" after its editor-in-chief wrote an article comparing the 2018 World Cup in Russian Federation to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin hosted by Hitler.

Mr Farron said: "If Russia is guilty of this appalling crime, on top of the information we now have of their state-sponsored interference in democratic elections in the UK, US and elsewhere then we should boycott the World Cup".

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"Skripal's poisoning, for which the investigation has not even begun yet, is being used by British politicians to draw conclusions about Russia's involvement".

While that seems likely to prompt the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Britain, a possible boycott of the World Cup is being reported in some circles as another option being privately considered.

"We want to emphasise once again that such provocative statements that fuel anti-Russian hysteria, only complicate relations between our countries and are a blow to the sport. But we can not just stand by and let a bully win".

Pulling England out of the World Cup is unlikely to find favour with Federation Internationale de Football Association or the majority of fans, however, while it is hard to see how other nations who have qualified would follow suit in support.

"Serious questions are already being asked about participation in the Russian-hosted World Cup", he said. However, he called for calm and said they will only "hear the statements of Theresa May and the minister of foreign affairs".

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