Russian President Vladimir Putin will try to bolster Russia’s image through hosting the World Cup in much the same way as Adolf Hitler used the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, Britain’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday.
Russia is hosting the World Cup this summer and opposition member of parliament Ian Austin said Putin would use the tournament to improve Russia’s image, comparing it to when Hitler’s Germany hosted Olympics.
Johnson, appearing before lawmakers, said he agreed with that assessment.
“Your characterisation of what is going to happen in Moscow in the World Cup, in all the venues – yes, I think the comparison with 1936 is certainly right,” he replied.
Johnson was being questioned over the chemical poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury this month.
Britain has blamed Russia for the attack and has expelled 23 of its diplomats but Russia denies involvement.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova later responded to Johnson’s comments, saying was poisoned by hatred for Russia and that his apparent comparison between Russia and Hitler’s Germany was unacceptable.
“Such parallels are unacceptable and are beneath the head of a diplomatic body of a European state,” she said.
“While there is no clarity with Skripal’s poisoning… things about Boris Johnson are different. It is clear he is poisoned with hatred and anger, unprofessionalism and, therefore, boorishness
“It is scary to remember that this person represents political leadership of a nuclear power.”
Britain has also said it will not send ministers or members of the royal family in delegations to the World Cup, but Johnson said it would be unfair on the players for the England team itself to withdraw.
He was concerned however about the safety of English fans and the ability of the British embassy and consular services to protect them.
Clashes between English and Russian fans marred the 2016 European Championship in France.