Hajo Seppelt has been granted permission to enter Russia ©ARD

German investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt will be granted a visa to attend the 2018 World Cup following a U-turn by Russian authorities, it has been announced today.

German Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Mass announced on Twitter: "Intermediate success: Russian side has just told us that Hajo Seppelt can at least go to the World Cup." 

"We continue to follow the development of events," he added.

The Russian Investigative Committee then announced that Seppelt will be questioned as part of their inquiry into ex-Moscow Laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov, the main witness at the centre of the Russian doping scandal, on arrival in the country.

A spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel has earlier urged Russia to change their mind and allow investigative reporter Seppelt to be granted a visa to attend next month's event.

Seppelt, the journalist who first revealed widespread doping in Russian athletics, had been refused a visa to attend the month-long event.

Public broadcasters ARD had been hoping to send Seppelt as part of their team for the tournament but he was placed on an "undesirable persons" list in Russia following his extensive work investigating the doping scandal in the nation.

Steffen Seibert, a spokesperson for Merkel, had criticised this decision as "wrong".

"Russia must guarantee the free coverage of what is probably the biggest international sporting event, with the Olympics," he added, according to Deutsche Welle.

"We are convinced that it would look bad on Russia's part if it would so obviously curb press freedom while the world is watching."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, pictured alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin ©Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, pictured alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin ©Getty Images

The German Federal Ministry of the Interior had also "committed to ensuring that this decision is revised".

Other German figures had called on FIFA and the German Football Federation to do more to lobby for a change in mind.

Seppelt's accreditation had already been accepted by FIFA and the body said they were trying to obtain further information from Russian authorities.

In a statement, ARD said the initial decision not to allow Seppelt into the country was "unheard-of violation of press freedom" and was "unique in the history of ARD's sports journalism".

Azerbaijani authorities were heavily criticised before the Baku 2015 European Games when The Guardian journalist Owen Gibson was denied entry.

Many reporters also had their accreditation requests rejected when applying to cover last year's Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

A petition had been set-up via the website change.org to call for Seppelt to be allowed into Russia.

The petition, addressed to FIFA and its President, Gianni Infantino, urges "Russia to respect the freedom of press without restrictions and if necessary take the necessary steps". 

"A World Cup in a country that does not respect the freedom of press is not acceptable," it adds.

It had gleaned around 1,000 signatures before news of the visa being granted came in.

There has been no response so far from the International Sports Press Association but they had said that "if Hajo Seppelt reaches out to us, we would be happy to help".

The FIFA World Cup is due to take place across Russia from June 14 to July 15.