Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin will use the world cup “like Hitler used the Olympics in 1936.” The statement came on Wednesday as Johnson faced questions from the Commons Foreign Affairs Select committee.
Johnson told the committee he did not want another Cold War, but said the all evidence “leads inexorably back to the Kremlin”. He said the World Cup would be a ‘PR exercise’ for the Putin regime.
Johnson said the UK had been trying to communicate with Russia. In recent days, the Foreign Secretary and other key figures have highly condenmed Moscow, which it believes was behind the nerve attack of Sergei & Yulia Skripal on March 4. The Foreign Secretary did though talk about a friendship with the people of Russia – “We continue to hold out a hand of friendship to the Russian people – because our quarrel is not with them, it is with Vladimir Putin.”
A Labour MP hit back at Johnson, claiming the Government should have taken action long ago – “With the greatest respect, it should not have taken another attempted murder on the streets of Britain for the Government to have finally woken up to the severity of this issue. It should not have taken this.”
It has been revealed that only 24,000 people have applied for visas from the UK to visit Russia for the World Cup, down three quarters on the number of applications at the same time before the last World Cup. Johnson said the Government was ‘not actively inclined to dissuade people from going’ at this stage.
Johnson also revealed that the Foreign Office is planning to open 10 new embassies and fund 250 new diplomatic posts across the world.