International News

    Russia brands Boris Johnson’s Putin-Hitler comparison ‘disgusting’

    Russia has hit out at Boris Johnson for likening Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler, calling it “utterly disgusting” and “unacceptable”.
    The Foreign Secretary suggested the Russian President will “glory” in this summer’s World Cup in a similar way to the German dictator during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
    Mr Johnson told a committee of MPs it was “an emetic prospect” to think of Mr Putin “glorying in this sporting event”, as he agreed it would be comparable to the Olympics held in Nazi Germany.
    “I think the comparison with 1936 is certainly right,” Mr Johnson said.
    He was responding to a question from Labour MP Ian Austin, who suggested Russia’s President was planning to use the event “in the way Hitler used the 1936 Olympics” as a propaganda exercise to “gloss over” Russia’s “gross human rights abuses”.
    The comments drew an immediate response from Russia after Mr Johnson made them on Wednesday, with its foreign ministry accusing the British Foreign Secretary of being “poisoned with venom of hate, unprofessionalism and boorishness”.
    Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov kept up the attack on Thursday, saying it was “a completely disgusting statement”.
    “This is beneath the foreign minister of any country. Of course it is offensive and unacceptable,” he said.
    The 1936 Olympics provided a propaganda opportunity for Hitler and his Nazi regime in Germany, with the run-up to the Games marked by debate over whether it should be boycotted by other nations – most prominently in the US.
    Hitler officiated at both the opening and closing ceremonies, but saw his dream of a triumph for “Aryan” athletes famously undermined by black American athlete Jesse Owens winning four gold medals.
    Mr Johnson’s remarks represent a dramatic escalation of the war of words between Britain and Russia over the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury earlier this month.
    London has blamed the nerve agent attack on Moscow, something Russia has denied.
    In an extraordinary rant on Wednesday, the country’s foreign ministry accused Britain of “Russophobia” and having an “island mentality”.
    Responding to that briefing, Britain’s Russian ambassador Laurie Bristow said it was a “two-hour marathon of personal insults, lies and disinformation”.
    Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May is set to tell EU leaders they will succeed in the face of Russia’s threat if they remain united.
    At a European Council summit in Brussels on Thursday, the PM will speak of the “indiscriminate and reckless” attack in Salisbury as part of a pattern of recent behaviour from Moscow.
    As well as plunging ties between Britain and Russia to their lowest level since the Cold War, the poisoning has raised a number of questions about this summer’s World Cup.
    Mr Johnson told the MPs that he was “deeply concerned” at the treatment travelling England fans would likely receive in Russia.
    He suggested the Foreign Office – which has until this point stopped short of advising fans not to travel – could reconsider its position given recent events.

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