Boris Johnson compares Putin’s World Cup to Hitler’s Olympics

Foreign secretary agrees that Russian president will revel in publicity of event

At a Foreign Affairs committee a Labour MP claimed that Putin would use the World Cup like 'Hitler used the 1936 Olympics'. Video: Parliament TV


Boris Johnson has compared this year’s World Cup in Russia to the 1936 Olympics, suggesting that Vladimir Putin will revel in the publicity as Adolf Hitler did in Munich. The British foreign secretary told MPs that England fans could be advised against travelling to Russia for the tournament.

“I think it is up to the Russians to give us an undertaking that they will be safe,” he said.

He added that the British diplomat responsible for liaising with the football fans in Russia had been expelled as part of Moscow’s retaliation for Britain’s expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats following the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury.

Mr Johnson was appearing before the foreign affairs committee at Westminster on Wednesday when a Labour MP suggested that Mr Putin would use the World Cup in the way Hitler used the 1936 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. It is an emetic prospect of Putin glorying in this sporting event”,” Mr Johnson said.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain critically ill in hospital following their poisoning on March 4th with a nerve agent. Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived in Salisbury on Wednesday to investigate the poisoning. They will spend up to two weeks taking samples, which they will send to a laboratory in The Hague for analysis.

Moscow denials

Moscow has denied any role in the attack but Mr Johnson on Wednesday dismissed that response.

“As we saw in the case of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, the trail of responsibility for such assassinations and assassination attempts does lead inexorably back to the Kremlin,” he said.

Mr Johnson suggested that Mr Putin may have ordered the attack to send a warning to others in Russian intelligence who may be thinking of defecting.

“I think first of all it was a sign that President Putin, or the Russian state, wanted to give to potential defectors in their own agencies that this is what happens to you if you decide that you support a country with a different set of values – such as our own. You can expect to be assassinated,” he said.

“The reason why they picked the UK is very simple. It is because this is a country that does have that particular set of values, that does believe in freedom and democracy and the rule of law and has time and again called out Russia over its abuses of these values.”

A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said Mr Johnson was “poisoned with hatred” and Vladimir Yermakov, a ministry official, suggested Britain might have poisoned the Skripals.

“Either the British authorities are not able to provide protection from such a, let’s say, terrorist attack on their soil, or they, whether directly or indirectly, I am not accusing anyone, have orchestrated an attack on a Russian citizen,” he said.