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Vladimir Putin treating World Cup like Hitler's Olympics - Boris Johnson

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says it is sickening to think of President Vladimir Putin glorifying in Russia hosting the World Cup and agreed there are comparisons with Adolf Hitler's use of the 1936 Olympics as a propaganda vehicle for his regime.

After the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Britain said it would not send royals or government ministers to the tournament, though the England team will compete.

Speaking to Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Johnson agreed with a Labour politician who likened the event to the way Hitler used the Berlin Olympics in 1936.

"I think the comparison with 1936 is certainly right," Johnson said. "I think it's an emetic prospect, frankly, to think of Putin glorying in this sporting event."

In reply, Russia denounced Johnson as unprofessional. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Johnson is "poisoned with venom of hate, unprofessionalism and boorishness," adding that "it's scary to remember that this person represents the political leadership of a nuclear power."

She said on Facebook that Johnson's statements were "unacceptable, unworthy of a top European diplomat," adding that it reflected London's efforts to cast Russia as an enemy using the most absurd reasons in order to boycott the World Cup.

Johnson also issued a warning to Russia that it has a duty to ensure England fans travelling to the World Cup are properly protected and said he was "deeply concerned" as to how they would be treated.

While the Foreign Office has so far stopped short of advising fans not to go to the tournament starting in June, he said they were monitoring the situation "very, very closely."

"It is up to the Russians to guarantee the safety of England fans going to Russia. It is their duty under their FIFA contract to look after our fans," he said.

"We are watching it very, very closely. At the moment we are not inclined actively to dissuade people from going because we want to hear from the Russians what steps they are going to take to look after our fans.

Even before events in Salisbury, there were concerns that England fans could be targeted by violent Russian hooligan gangs.

Johnson said the UK authorities had been cooperating with Russians at a "policing level" but there were now questions as to how that would continue.

He said that so far there had been 24,000 applications from England fans to attend the World Cup, well down on the 94,000 applications at the same stage of the Rio World Cup in 2014.

"The numbers are well down but that does not mean we are not deeply concerned about how they may be treated," he said. "My challenge to the Russian authorities is to show how the 24,000 UK applicants for tickets to the football World Cup are going to be well treated, are going to be safe."

Information from the Associatied Press and Press Association was used in this report.


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