POLITICS
21/03/2018 15:43 GMT | Updated 21/03/2018 16:41 GMT

Boris Johnson Compares World Cup In Russia To Hitler Hosting The Olympics

Foreign secretary 'deeply concerned' about safety of England fans.

PA Wire/PA Images

Boris Johnson has said Russia holding the football World Cup is the same as when Nazi Germany hosted the Olympic Games.

The foreign secretary said he was “deeply concerned” about the safety of England fans attending this summer’s tournament.

“It is up to the Russians to guarantee the safety of England fans going to Russia. It’s the duty under their Fifa contract to look after our fans,” he told the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

Johnson revealed The Kremlin had expelled the British Embassy official who was responsible for the safety of England fans .

But he said the government was “at the moment not inclined to actively dissuade people from going”.

He said it would be “wrong to punish” the England team or fans to prevent them from attending the tournament. “I think it would be a pity for them,” he said.

The UK has expelled 23 undeclared Russian intelligence officers in retaliation for the Salisbury attack.

In response Russia has kicked out the same number of British diplomats and move to close down the British Council in St Petersburg.

Mikhail Svetlov via Getty Images

Johnson said Labour MP Ian Austin was “completely right” to compare Vladimir Putin’s World Cup to Adolf Hitler’s Olympics.

“I think that your characterisation of what is going to happen in Moscow, the World Cup, in all the venues – yes, 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.”

Austin had told the foreign secretary: “Putin is going to use it the way Hitler used the 1936 Olympics.

“I frankly do not think England should be participating in the World Cup,” he added.

“There’s absolutely no way I would be going to Russia to watch the national team. If a member of my family wanted to go he’d be subject to visa ban by me.”

Asked whether Theresa May agreed with Johnson that Russia holding the World Cup was “emetic”, the prime minister’s spokesman said: “The foreign secretary is giving evidence to the select committee on behalf of the government.”

The spokesman added that “decisions on what the [England] team do are not for the government”.

Johnson said Putin’s actions, including the accusation Russia was behind the Salisbury nerve-agent attack, was a result of his “revanchist bitter feeling about the way the Cold War ended”.

The foreign secretary also revealed the number of England fans applying to travel to the tournament was significantly down on what it was at this point ahead of the 2014 tournament.

He said only around 24,000 fans had applied to travel to Russia compared to 94,000 who had expressed interest in going to Brazil.