MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin will jet to Brazil next month to take part in a handover ceremony at the end of the World Cup finals, with Russia gearing up to host the next championship, a newspaper report said on Wednesday.
Putin will attend an event following the July 12 final in Rio de Janeiro where his Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff will pass on responsibility for the tournament to the Kremlin strongman. Russia will hold the football extravanganza in 2018 and has pledged to pump some $20 billion into building stadiums and infrastructure around the country for tournament.
Putin has become increasingly isolated by the West on the international stage over the Ukraine crisis but has sought to strengthen ties with new economic powers such as Brazil, China and India. Putin has used major sporting events to burnish his image at home and abroad, splashing some $50 billion dollars on transforming the Black Sea city of Sochi into a gleaming showcase for the Winter Olympics in February. The Russian national team kicked off its participation in the Brazil finals on Tuesday with a 1:1 draw against South Korea.