Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko claims the country is "too busy" to host more sporting events before 2020 ©Getty Images

A host for the 2019 European Games is still being sought after Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko claimed they had "never sent" an application to stage it.

Speaking here during the SportAccord Convention, Mutko claimed the country is too busy holding other major sporting events until 2020.

The European Olympic Committees (EOC) have since told insidethegames that Russia remains their "preferred choice" while admitting they are talking to other countries.

This follows The Netherlands' decision to withdraw as hosts last year.

EOC President Patrick Hickey then announced at November's EOC General Assembly that Russia was the preferred choice to host the Games.

A decision was ultimately delayed due to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Independent Commission publishing evidence of systemic and state-sponsored doping across Russian athletics, with a tentative target of May having been set for official confirmation.

"Russia has never sent an application for the European Games," Mutko said today.

When asked if Russia therefore has no interest in bidding, he replied: "Russia is absolutely busy until 2020."

He listed other events they Russia is already committed to host before that, including next month's International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships and the FIFA World Cup in 2018.

The European Games were expected to be held in Russia in 2019 to follow the successful first edition in Baku ©Getty Images
The European Games were expected to be held in Russia in 2019 to follow the successful first edition in Baku ©Getty Images

The EOC has conducted all negotiations through the Russian Olympic Committees, its President, Alexander Zhukov, and with the President of the country, Vladimir Putin, insidethegames understands.

Mutko has not been involved, with EOC officials claiming to remain upbeat that all discussions have been undertaken through the correct protocol.

"In accordance with our policy throughout the host city selection process, the EOC will not comment on the specifics of our negotiations with potential hosts of the 2019 European Games," the EOC said today.

"We will confirm, however, that our position today is consistent with our position at our General Assembly in November 2015: there has been no official change to Russia’s status as preferred host, either from the EOC or from the ROC as the party with whom we have been in talks.

"However, given the economic and sporting pressure Russia is currently under, the EOC continues to work on an alternative plan to hosting the European Games in Russia in 2019 as a matter of good governance and risk management."

It comes as Russia continues work to be re-declared compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code and have the All-Russia Athletic Federation's suspension from the International Association of Athletics Federations lifted in time for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

An inaugural edition of the European Games was held in Baku in 2015.

The second edition was initially awarded to The Netherlands before the country pulled out last year.

They were then expected to be shared between Sochi, host of the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, and Kazan, which staged the 2013 Summer Universiade.