Russian President Vladimir Putin will try to bolster Russia’s image through hosting the World Cup in much the same way as Adolf Hitler used the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, Britain’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said.
Mr Johnson told Parliament he agreed with a Labour MP who likened the event to Hitler’s use of the 1936 Games as a propaganda vehicle for his regime.
“Your characterisation of what is going to happen in Moscow in the World Cup, in all the venues, I think the comparison with 1936 is certainly right,” he said.
“I think it’s an emetic prospect, frankly, to think of Putin glorying in this sporting event.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Mr Johnson is “poisoned with venom of hate, unprofessionalism and boorishness”, adding that “it’s scary to remember that this person represents the political leadership of a nuclear power”.
She said on Facebook Mr Johnson’s statements were “unacceptable, unworthy of a top European diplomat”, adding that it reflected London’s efforts to cast Russia as an enemy, using the most absurd reasons, in order to boycott the World Cup.
Mr Johnson was being questioned over the chemical poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury earlier this month.
Britain has blamed Russia for the attack and has expelled 23 of its diplomats, but Russia denies involvement.
Britain has also said it will not send ministers or members of the royal family in delegations to the World Cup, but Mr Johnson said it would be unfair on the players for the England team itself to withdraw.
He was concerned however about the safety of English fans and the ability of the British embassy and consular services to protect them.
Clashes between English and Russian fans marred the 2016 European Championship in France.
British police have previously expressed confidence that Russia would deal with any trouble among their own supporters, as well as visiting ones.
Mr Johnson said applications to go to Russia for the World Cup were about a quarter of what they were at this stage ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“It is up to the Russians to guarantee the safety of England fans going to Russia,” he added.
“At the moment we are not inclined actively to dissuade people from going because we want to hear from the Russians what steps they are going to take to look after our fans.”