- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2018

President Trump is welcomed to attend the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Wednesday.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would be glad to see all guests here in Moscow and certainly this concerns the guests from the United States at the highest level,” Mr. Peskov told reporters after being asked whether Mr. Trump would be invited to attend the international soccer tournament starting this week, Russian media reported.

The White House did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

The month-long 2018 World Cup is scheduled to start this Thursday at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, and 11 cities across Russia are slated to host matches before the tournament concludes July 15.

The U.S. national team failed to secure a place in the World Cup with its loss last October to Trinidad and Tobago in a qualifying round.

Foreign leaders currently expected to attend World Cup games include top officials from countries including Armenia, Lebanon, Panama, Paraguay and Saudi Arabia, among others, Russia’s state-owned TASS newswire reported Wednesday.

Mr. Trump has not traveled to Russia since before taking office in January 2017, and any visit is likely to pique the interest of special counsel Robert Mueller, the former FBI director appointed by the Department of Justice to investigate the 2016 U.S. presidential election and particularly any ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Investigations aside, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier this year that Mr. Trump has nonetheless expressed an interest in visiting his Kremlin counterpart abroad.

“We proceed from the fact that the U.S. president in a telephone conversation … made such an invitation, said he would be glad to see (Putin) in the White House, would then be glad to meet on a reciprocal visit,” Mr. Lavrov wrote on the foreign ministry’s website in April.

“He returned to this topic a couple of times, so we let our American colleagues know that we do not want to impose, but we also do not want to be impolite, and that considering that President Trump made this proposal, we proceed from the position that he will make it concrete.”

World Cup officials separately announced Wednesday that the 2026 World Cup will be held at venues in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

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