MOSCOW - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
urged the Russian Football Union (RFU) on Wednesday to work with
fan groups to ensure the 2018 World Cup is free of the violence
and ethnic tension that has plagued football in the country.
Days after the world's largest country was awarded the right
to stage the sport's biggest event for the first time in
December, some 7,000 fans and nationalists rioted in central
Moscow, chanting racist slogans such as "Russia for Russians".
"We've promised FIFA, the world and sporting communities
that Russia will hold the tournament under the principles of
tolerance and goodwill," Putin told government officials
responsible for organising the event.
"And these basic principles must be followed without any
doubt or compromise."
He added the RFU should "immediately begin active work with
various fan organisations on creating a peaceful and friendly
environment leading up to the 2018 tournament".
More than 30 people were injured in December's violence,
which came after a Spartak Moscow supporter was shot dead in a
street fight with natives of Russia's largely Muslim North
Putin, widely credited with helping Russia beat England and
joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands to stage
the tournament, also told the Finance Ministry to report on the
costs of hosting the football extravaganza by June 1.
"We have no problems with some of the stadiums, such as in
Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi and Kazan," said Putin, who last
month named himself to head the World Cup supervisory board.
"But in other regions there is still much work to be done in
accordance with FIFA requirements."
Russian officials estimate it would cost about $10 billion
to stage the event, although some experts say the figure could
reach more than $50 billion as the country faces the huge task
of building much of the infrastructure from scratch.
Putin also entrusted the country's football chiefs with the
task of preparing a strong national team for the 2018 event.
"This task cannot be solved in just one or two years. We
still have seven years ahead and we must do daily, painstaking
work with our young players as they will have to uphold the
honour of our flag in 2018," he said.
"I would like to stress to both the Sports Ministry and the
RFU that the preparation of our national team for the (2018)
World Cup is the most important part of their work."
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