Boris Johnson comparing Russia World Cup to Hitler and the 1936 Olympics is 'offensive and unacceptable', says Putin spokesman

Adam Withnall, Oliver Carroll
The Independent

Boris Johnson's comments comparing the World Cup in Russia to the 1936 Olympics under Hitler are "offensive and unacceptable", according to Vladimir Putin's spokesman.

Dmitry Peskov said the UK Foreign Secretary's statement was "disgusting" and "unworthy of the foreign minister of any country".

Mr Johnson was responding to concerns that the world's most prestigious footballing event was being used as a "PR exercise to gloss over the brutal, corrupt regime" of the Russian government.

The Foreign Office has stopped short of advising fans not to go to the tournament but Mr Johnson signalled that he was considering whether to warn fans against attending. Theresa May has already said no royals or ministers will go to the World Cup.

Mr Johnson did not initiate the comparison between Mr Putin and Hitler - it was prompted by die-hard football fan and Labour MP Ian Austin at the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. "Putin is going to use it the way Hitler used the 1936 Olympics," Mr Austin suggested.

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

During his daily news conference, Mr Peskov was also asked about Theresa May's visit to Brussels on Thursday, during which she is expected to tell other members of the EU to unite in support of the UK against Russia.

Mr Peskov said the UK was still "not prepared to collaborate on establishing the facts of this crime". "We see the their refusal to present any information. We see all declarations have no founding or evidence of elementary logic. We hope that UK partners will take this in account," he said.

Ms May is seeking a strong statement against Mr Putin personally, after the UK said it was "overwhelmingly likely" he ordered the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, southern England, on 4 March.

In the wake of the attack Britain has called Russia a growing threat to Western democracies.

On Monday EU foreign ministers expressed "unqualified solidarity" with Britain. But May is hoping for a more strongly worded statement that explicitly condemns Russia.

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