Putin promises fans World Cup at highest level

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Russia’s preparations for hosting the soccer World Cup next year are on track, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the head of world soccer’s governing body, FIFA, on Tuesday.

Russia, which has come under several rounds of Western sanctions over the annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s role in Ukraine’s conflict with pro-Russian separatists, will host the FIFA Confederations Cup next month and the World Cup in 2018.

Moscow has eased visa regulations for foreign soccer fans and pumped billions of dollars into stadiums, hotels and other infrastructure as the Kremlin is keen to improve Russia’s image in its worst crisis with the West since the Cold War.

“As regards preparing for the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, as you know, we pay a great deal of attention to our foreign guests, we will provide them with many places, we are also working with fans and with their associations,” Putin told visiting FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

“We are going to do everything in our power to ensure that the facilities, the accommodation, the condition of stadiums in Russia, the services that are going to be provided to the athletes, to the fans and to everyone else are at the highest level possible.”

The two men met in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar, which boasts one of the nation’s most modern stadiums, belonging to Russian Premier League club FC Krasnodar.

Although Krasnodar will not be a venue for either of the tournaments, Infantino said the local “state-of-the-art infrastructure” was “a concrete fact proving that Russia would deliver”

“Obviously as FIFA president but more importantly also as football fan I really invite the whole world to come to Russia for the Confederations Cup, for the World Cup and to discover an incredible country,” Infantino said.