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  1. ITV Report

Will England football fans be safe at Russia 2018?

Russia and the UK may be at loggerheads internationally but British officials in Moscow have told ITV News that England fans will be welcomed at the summer's football World Cup.

Safety has been a concern for England fans heading in declining numbers across Europe, particularly after the fans clashes in Marseille during the European Championships in 2016.

England fans were involved in violence at Euro 2016 in France. Credit: PA

The diplomatic row between London and the Kremlin over Syria and the Salisbury spy attack has amplified fears the football rivalries could erupt in and outside of the grounds.

Robert Ustian, head of the fan group CSKA Against Racism, told ITV News the claims were an over-reaction by the Western media.

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"We don't deserve to be disrespected," he said. "Russians feel like a cornered animal now.

"No one respects here and trusts journalists from the West because they believe you came here to show only negative stories about Russia."

Mr Ustian admitted racism and homophobia was present on the terraces but was confident officials will clamp down during the tournament - and he insisted the state will keep all known offenders quiet in the summer.

CSKA Moscow fans put on a fearsome display in the stands in a recent derby with Dynamo Moscow. Credit: ITV News

Against the backdrop of the Kremlin, he added: "For Vladimir Putin this World Cup is a unique chance to prove to the rest of the world that this country can do something high class."

In a direct call to fans, he said: "Pack your bags and come to Russia and let's show the whole world that this our game and let's try to make football as one of the strongest tools in terms of public diplomacy."

The goal is shared by officials at the British Embassy, despite losing diplomats in the tit-for-tat row following the Salisbury spy attack.

But those still in the Russian capital told ITV News they are working well with the Russian government to provide a "good consular service for all travelling fans" at Russia 2018.

Lindsay Skoll from the British Embassy insists fans can travel safely. Credit: ITV News

The British Embassy's Deputy Head of Mission, Lindsay Skoll, told ITV News: "We've already had 18 months of really careful planning and preparation.

"We do have contingency plans in place, we are bringing in harnessing expertise across our consular network.

"We're confident we have a good plan in place that we are working through with the Russian government to ensure that, yes, we can provide a good consular service for all travelling fans."