- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia is marking 1,000 days to go until the 2018 World Cup, but FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke is absent after being suspended from his duties.

Against the backdrop of turmoil at FIFA, Russian President Vladimir Putin said World Cup preparations were going to plan as he launched a youth football tournament on Red Square.

Speaking by video link, Putin said “Russia always approaches events like (the World Cup) in a responsible way.”

There was no reference to Valcke, FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s right-hand man, who had been due to appear at the event before he was suspended Thursday. That followed allegations Valcke was involved in black market sales of tickets to 2014 World Cup matches.

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