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ESPN FC’s Craig Burley does not feel Russia will emerge from Group A that also contains Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Uruguay.

Russia’s deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko has been formally removed as the chairman of the committee organising this summer’s World Cup.

The document announcing his exit from the committee he has fronted since its creation in March 2011 — three months after the bid he led won the right to stage the 2018 tournament — was signed by Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev on Dec. 30 and published on Thursday.

It had already been announced that Mutko will be replaced as chairman of Russia 2018’s organising committee by Alexey Sorokin, who will combine the role with his existing position as chief executive.

Sorokin has also taken the senior positions Mutko once held at FIFA and UEFA.

Mutko, who has also temporarily stood down as president of the Russian Football Union, has been the subject of considerable scrutiny ever since the details of Russia’s state-sponsored doping programme began to emerge in late 2014.

As Russia’s minister of sport between 2008 and 2016, the 59-year-old has been accused of directing the conspiracy to dope more than 1,000 athletes in over 30 sports, and last month the International Olympic Committee banned him from the Games for life.

A close political ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Mutko has denied any wrongdoing and said he would continue to help Russia prepare for the World Cup, which starts when the hosts meet Saudi Arabia on June 14, from within government.

The organising committee has also already said the change at the top will not have a negative impact on the tournament, but Mutko’s removal comes only four weeks after he shared a Kremlin stage with FIFA president Gianni Infantino at the World Cup draw.



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