Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will not travel to attend Thursday's World Cup hosting decision in Zurich, dealing a blow to his country's hopes of staging the tournament in 2018.
Putin, who said First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov would attend the ceremony, said Russia had faced "unscrupulous competition" in the bid to host the World Cup.
"We have unfortunately witnessed a campaign against members of the FIFA executive -- filth and compromising material has been poured over them. I see this as unscrupulous competition ahead of the vote," Putin told ministers in Moscow.
"I have decided to refrain from travelling out of respect for the members of FIFA, the members of the FIFA executive, so that they can make a decision calmly."