By Agence France-Presse
German Chancellor Angela Merkel “may well” visit Russia for the football World Cup beginning this month in the face of international opprobrium for Moscow, she said Sunday.
“It’s not fundamentally ruled out,” Merkel said in an interview with ARD public television.
“If you’re asking about a discussion of principles, whether one ought to travel there, it’s a clear yes.”
Russia is subject to Western sanctions over its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and support for rebels in the east of the country.
This year many nations also expelled diplomats from Moscow over the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain.
Believing Russia to be behind the attack, London will not send any politicians or members of its royal family to the World Cup in protest.
“We can differentiate” between football and the issues dividing Russia and the West, Merkel insisted.
“Without speaking to one another, we will not find any solution at all.”
Merkel also came to the defence of two national team players with Turkish backgrounds, Ilkay Gundogan and Mesut Ozil.
The pair were photographed last month meeting Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and handing over a Manchester City shirt signed to “my president”.
There was outrage in Germany over the apparent support for Erdogan.
“They didn’t think about what the photo could set off,” the chancellor said.
“I’m convinced they didn’t want to let down German fans.”
Erdogan has cracked down harshly on political opponents and the press since a failed coup attempt in 2016.
He is also accused of meddling in European affairs via Turkish government-funded Islamic organizations — prompting Austria to announce the closure of seven mosques and expulsion of up to 60 imams last week.