Putin says safe World Cup crucial to country's image

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said a safe World Cup this summer would be essential for the country's image, as the violence from Russian fans at Euro 2016 shadows preparations

Putin says safe World Cup crucial to country's image

Vladimir Putin speaking to on Russian police on Wednesday claimed that Russia, which is to host the championship for the first time, "must hold it at the highest level and most importantly, ensure maximum security for players and fans."

"Of course you play a crucial role in achieving this aim," Putin told police.

"I don't doubt that at the World Cup you will also act appropriately in any given situation, in strict accordance with the law."

A picture taken on February 28, 2018 shows a view of the Fisht Stadium in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The venue will host six matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament

He stressed that "the way this event goes and our country's image will directly depend on your smooth, skilful work."

The world football governing body FIFA on Friday expressed "complete trust" in Russia's ability to ensure a safe World Cup, despite violence involving fans of Spartak Moscow in Bilbao during which a policeman died.

Russia will host the tournament in 11 cities from June 14 to July 15.

The lead-up has been coloured by fears of a repeat of the June 2016 rampage by Russian hooligans that erupted in the French port city of Marseille during the Euro tournament.

However, Russia has cracked down on football gangs and worked to identify hooligans seeking to attend the matches, even enlisting help from British police.

Putin has courted football fans in the past, even visiting the graveside of a Spartak Moscow fan shot dead in a mass fight with men from the Russian Caucasus in December 2010.