Boris Johnson likens Russia hosting World Cup to Hitler's 1936 Olympics

Boris Johnson has agreed with a Labour MP that Vladimir Putin will use this summer's World Cup like Hitler did the 1936 Olympics.

Giving evidence at the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, the foreign secretary concurred with Labour’s Ian Austin who said the Russian president would use the occasion as a propaganda exercise, comparing it to the notorious pre-war Berlin Games.

Mr Johnson described the idea of Putin "glorying in this sporting event" as "an emetic prospect" saying "I think the comparison with 1936 is certainly right."

Mr Austin said the the idea of Mr Putin using the Moscow World Cup as PR to gloss over Russia's "gross human rights abuses."

The Dudley North MP called on Mr Johnson to reconsider England participating in the tournament.

He said: "I frankly do not think England should be participating in the World Cup. I don’t think we should be supporting Putin using this as a PR exercise to gloss over the gross human rights abuses for which he’s responsible."

Responding to concerns about fan safety following the expulsion of British diplomats in the wake of the Salisbury nerve agent attack, Mr Johnson said it was up to the "Russians to guarantee the safety of England fans."

In reply, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Mr Johnson is "poisoned with venom of hate, unprofessionalism and boorishness," adding that "it's scary to remember that this person represents the political leadership of a nuclear power."

She said on Facebook that Johnson's statements were "unacceptable, unworthy of a top European diplomat," adding that it reflected London's efforts to cast Russia as an enemy using the most absurd reasons in order to boycott the World Cup.

The Foreign Office has so far stopped short of advising fans not to go to the tournament, but they were monitoring the situation "very, very closely".

Former foreign secretary David Owen dismissed fears of a new Cold War following the attack on Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in which Russia is thought to be responsible .

He described Mr Johnson's comments likening Putin to Hitler as "ridiculous" and was not "a fair comparison."

Lord Owen told ITV News: "It (the Nazi regime) wanted world dominance. I don't think that is in anyway part of Putin's agenda. I think he knows that the United States and China are more powerful than he is and more powerful that Russia is.

"I think he also realises that he has to live with Europe because his economy is so weak he needs the strength of the markets in Europe to sell his gas and his oil."

But he said it was important for the government to take a tough stance following the Salisbury attack.

"We have to be very firm that we will not except this. It is intolerable behaviour and somebody must be responsible for that sophisticated neurotoxin," Lord Owen said.

Twenty three British diplomats were expelled from Russia and the British Council, which promotes cultural relations and educational opportunities, and British Consulate in St Petersburg were closed earlier this week.

The response was a reprisal for Britain ordering 23 Russian diplomats to leave in response to the attack.