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Rifkind 'not surprised to be banned from Russia'

Sir Malcolm Rifkind told ITV News he is "not particularly surprised" that he is among 89 European Union politicians and other senior figures who have been banned from entering Russia.

The former Foreign Secretary said President Putin has "that sort of little tantrum every so often."

I'm not particularly surprised, Mr Putin tends to go in for that sort of little tantrum every so often and they clearly are feeling that the sanctions are having an effect, they are realising that their economy will continue to be damaged unless they approach the Ukraine issue in a diplomatic way, rather than misuse of their military forces.

– Sir Malcolm Rifkind

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Putin sends telegram to congratulate Blatter on Fifa win

Vladimir Putin has sent a telegram to Fifa President Sepp Blatter congratulating him on his re-election, the Kremlin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Sepp Blatter at last year's World Cup. Credit: Reuters

"The head of the Russian state expressed confidence that experience, professionalism and high authority will help Blatter in future encourage the spread in the geography and popularity of football in the whole world," a Kremlin statement said.

Russia was interested in co-operating with Fifa in general and in particular in preparation for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, it said.

Over the 17 years that you have stood at the head of FIFA, you have acquired great respect among fans, coaches and players. I am certain that your experience and organisational talent, and your efforts aimed at consistently expanding football’s geography will serve to further develop and increase the popularity of this ‘number one sport’ that unites millions of fans all over the world.

I would like to stress that Russia is ready for further close and constructive cooperation with FIFA, which is especially important ahead of the 2018 World Cup. I am confident that through our joint efforts, we will hold an exceptional championship from an organisational and athletic standpoint.”

– Telegram from Vladimir Putin to Sepp Blatter

Putin accuses US of meddling with Fifa investigation

Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of meddling after senior Fifa officials were arrested on suspicion of corruption following an investigation by the FBI.

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Sepp Blatter at last year's World Cup. Credit: Reuters

Russian officials said yesterday that the country's 2018 World Cup bid was fully compliant after Swiss authorities said they were investigating allegations of "criminal mismanagement and money laundering" in connection with the awarding of the tournament.

Attacking the corruption investigation into Fifa, Mr Putin said: "This is yet another blatant attempt (by the United States) to extend its jurisdiction to other states.

He said the arrests were a "clear attempt" to prevent the re-election of Fifa president head Sepp Blatter, who he said had Russia's backing.

Russia wants to use convict labour to build World Cup

Russian president Putin sits with FIFA president Sepp Blatter Credit: REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev

Russia intends to use prisoners to help build stadiums and infrastructure for the 2018 World Cup and bring costs down.

A bill drafted by a member of the ruling party, United Russia, with the backing of the country's prison service, would allow contractors to use convicts in their projects.

"It'll help in the sense that there will be the opportunity to acquire building materials for a lower price, lower than there is currently on the market," Alexander Khinshtein told The Associated Press.

The Russian government is currently under pressure for the event's projected cost of 640bn roubles (£8.2bn).

Under the plans, convicts would continue to live in prison, travelling to work each day. They would earn roughly £190 per month.

Medvedev: Russia prepared to get tough on Ukraine debts

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview broadcast by Russian TV that it would adopt a tough position if Ukraine decided not to pay off debts owed by its previous government.

PM Dmitry Medvedev (right) with defence minister Sergei Shoigu, president Vladimir Putin. Credit: PA

"If it is actually formulated in this way this would undoubtedly be a default of Ukraine ... We would adopt as tough a position as possible in this case and defend our national interests," Medvedev told the Vesti on Saturday programme on state TV channel Rossiya.

Medvedev also said his government had an interest in seeing a predictable rate for the rouble, but he defended the central bank's policy of allowing the rouble to float, saying it was "optimal" to achieve a balance in the forex market between supply and demand.

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'No threat' from Russian planes spotted near UK airspace

The Ministry of Defence has said at no time was there a perceived threat from Russia planes that were tracked flying towards UK airspace.

The two Russian Bear military aircraft were escorted by RAF Typhoon fighters after they were scrambled when the initially unidentified aircraft were spotted flying North of Scotland.

The Russia Bear military aircraft did not cross into UK airspace, an RAF spokesperson said. Credit: PA Wire

It is the latest of similar incidents involving Russian military aircraft flying close to UK airspace in recent months.

RAF intercept Russian aircraft flying towards UK airspace

RAF Typhoon fighter jets have intercepted Russian aircraft that were tracked flying towards UK airspace earlier today.

The jets were scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth and escorted the Russia Bear aircraft until they were out of the UK area of interest, an RAF spokesperson said.

RAF Typhoon fighter aircraft were scrambled to intercept the Russian Bear aircraft.

"The aircraft were identified as Russian Bear aircraft which were escorted by the RAF Typhoon fighters until they were out of the UK area of interest.

"At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into UK sovereign airspace", the spokesperson added.

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