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 Caucasus.
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."comments