Putin says World Cup security won't be 'intrusive'
MOSCOW (AP) Security at the 2018 World Cup ''must be effective but not intrusive,'' Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday.
Russian security was tight at the Sochi Olympics this year, though it was not immediately clear whether Putin's comments would signal a different approach for the soccer tournament.
''I emphasize that security measures must be effective but not intrusive or extraneous, and not creating discomfort for sportsmen or for fans,'' said Putin, met with FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Tuesday.
Security concerns for the World Cup will likely center on possible terrorist attacks by insurgents from Russia's North Caucasus, and perhaps incidents linked to the Ukraine crisis.
The head of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), Alexander Bortnikov, said his organization, which typically fights terrorism and organized crime, had made tackling football hooliganism a priority in World Cup preparations.
The phenomenon of ''radical'' hooligan groups ''very much worries'' the FSB, Bortnikov said, pointing to clashes between German hooligans and police in Cologne on Sunday that injured 49 officers.
Soccer-related violence and racism are also comparatively commonplace at games in Russia.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Putin would sign off on a final security plan early next year.
Putin cited the Olympics as a major influence in preparing for the World Cup, Russia's first major soccer tournament.
Drawing on that experience, all World Cup preparations will be completed ''on schedule'' and ''to the very highest standards,'' Putin said.
He also warned Russia's struggling national football team, which has won only one of its last seven competitive matches and was eliminated in the first round at the World Cup, that its performance must be ''better than we saw in Brazil.''
However, there was a warning from Mutko, who said the country was in danger of falling behind schedule on plans to expand the number of hotels needed for fans.
Most of Russia's 11 host cities have never before hosted major international events and would currently struggle to accommodate thousands of football supporters. Russia plans to build 64 new hotels to compensate.
''In most of the host cities there is still a serious deficit of accommodation,'' Mutko said. ''This issue is moving at a slow pace as yet and we need to pay attention to it.''
Speaking on Russian state TV, Blatter repeated his opposition to any boycott of the World Cup in Russia.
''A boycott is not a solution. Football is to bring people together,'' he said. ''It's a great country, the biggest country in the world and I'm sure Russia can host a great World Cup.''
As for Russia's team, it lacked ''attacking spirit'' in Brazil, but was capable of reaching the final in 2018, Blatter said.