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.
In a speech to police, Putin said 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.”
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 last Friday expressed “complete trust” in Russia’s ability to ensure a safe World Cup, despite violence involving fans of Spartak Moscow in Spain 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.