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article imageRussia says World Cup preparations on track but delays remain

By AFP     Dec 2, 2015 in Sports

Russia's sports minister says preparations for the 2018 World Cup are on track but admits to delays in the construction of hotels in host cities.

"Overall work done in the framework of the federal programme for infrastructure preparation is on schedule," sports minister Vitaly Mutko told R-Sport news agency on Wednesday.

Mutko added that Russia's "complicated economic situation" -- in part linked to Western sanctions and low oil prices -- had not affected its investment budget for World Cup preparations.

The sports minister however deplored that economic woes had slowed the construction of hotels in some of the 11 tournament host cities.

"There are problems with delays in the construction of hotels in a number of regions because most of them are investment projects," Mutko said.

"The crisis could not but affect investors," he said, adding that the cities of Kaliningrad, Volgograd and Rostov-on-Don had experienced issues.

Mutko said he was confident the problems would be resolved in the "near future".

Russia in June slashed its World Cup budget by nearly 30 billion rubles ($448 million), sparking fears that the country's ambitious project would be marred with delays.

Mutko at the time said that the new budget, which was cut from 660.6 billion rubles to 631.5 billion rubles, would not impact the construction and renovation of stadiums.

The Interior Ministry on Wednesday said it was concerned that Russia was still lacking the 12,000 stadium stewards required to ensure security at its 12 World Cup venues.

But Russian sports authorities have remained upbeat, with Mutko saying he hoped the tournament would appease global tensions after Moscow's relations with the West plunged to their post Cold-War nadir over the Ukraine crisis.

Relations between Russia and the West soured over Moscow's the annexation of Crimea in March 2014 year and its subsequent support of a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

There is also bitterness amongst other 2018 candidates over allegations Russia was awarded the World Cup by a backroom deal made with FIFA prior to voting for the host country.

Mutko has maintained Russia was not aware of any behind-the-scenes deals and that the country's bid for the tournament had been fair.

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