The 2018 FIFA World Cup is kicking off at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium at 18:00 local time on Thursday. Its matches will be played at 12 arenas in 11 cities across the country. National teams from 32 countries will take part in the tournament.
Alexey Sorokin, the Director General of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) Russia-2018, told Izvestia that he has mixed feelings about the work to get ready for the World Cup. "There is mild nervousness due to the fact that the event we have been getting ready for over the past seven years is about to begin. On the other hand, we have no apprehensions whatsoever. After all, preparations have taken much time. We have invested a lot of time and effort in them to be fully prepared for this large-scale event. It will be only too fair, if everything goes smoothly," he said.
All the teams, which will take part in the tournament, have already arrived at their Team Base Camps. According to Sorokin, none of the delegations has any complaints about the conditions of stay in the country.
The high level of infrastructure was commended by Phil Neville, the current head coach of England’s women’s football team who used to play for the country’s national squad. He visited Moscow last week with his team, which played a friendly match against Russians.
Neville told the paper that he liked both the stadium and the hotel his team and he stayed in. He stressed that everything had been organized at a very high level, adding that an atmosphere of an upcoming big holiday was felt in the Russian capital. He was certain that Russia would cope with hosting the tournament.
Meanwhile, Russia is gearing up to welcome about 400,000 foreign tourists during the FIFA World Cup. The last batch of about 100,000 tickets was on sale a week before the beginning of the tournament. "The demand is tremendous," Sorokin explained to Izvestia. "I can judge by my friends, acquaintances and myself. Events of such level have never been held in Russia, and the FIFA World Cup is unique in terms of its scale, scope and emotions."
The United States continues to step up its sanctions pressure on Russia, in spite of some positive signals sent by President Donald Trump, Kommersant writes.
On June 11, the US Department of Treasury unveiled fresh restrictive measures against three Russian individuals and five entities, which, Washington alleged, "directly contributed to improving Russia’s cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the FSB and therefore jeopardize the safety and security of the United States and our allies."
International sales of Russian IT security companies are insignificant, as a rule, Kommersant’s IT market source said, adding that there are quite a few banks among the Russian clients of Digital Security (one of the companies sanctioned by the US), that can decide against working with it. According to another source, Digital Security operates mainly in Russia. In his view, for most banks, it does not matter whether or not the company has been added to the sanctions list. The exception is those banks, which have close ties with Western partners, and foreign banks’ subsidiaries. On the other hand, the sales of ERPScan focusing on the international market are likely to fall, he added.
Additionally, on June 12, the US Department of Justice charged five employees of Russia’s Sovfracht shipping company with supplying jet fuel to Syria in violation of US sanctions imposed on Damascus. Sovfracht CEO Dmitry Purim noted in an interview with the paper that the company had never violated international legal norms and would uphold its rights in court.
The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed Washington’s moves as reckless and short-sighted, explaining that the jet fuel transported by Sovfracht was intended for Russia’s Aerospace Forces, which help fight terror groups on Syrian soil.
Russian national Konstantin Yaroshenko who is serving a 20-year prison term in the US is to be transferred to a correctional institution in Pennsylvania, his wife Viktoria informed Izvestia, adding that this could happen as early as the end of this week.
"Konstantin has already been transported to a Brooklyn prison to be transferred to Pennsyvania. It is more than likely that he will be sent to the Loretto prison located between the cities of Altoona and Johnstown. The entire process will take at least two more days," Viktoria said.
She added that Konstantin is very much concerned about his upcoming transfer to another prison. "The most important thing for us is to preserve the opportunity to communicate both over the phone and through a special E-mail system for prisoners," Yaroshenko’s wife stressed. "In terms of incarceration conditions, that prison should correspond to those in New Jersey. However, at the moment it is impossible to understand all the possible nuances."
Russia is keeping a close eye on the situation with its citizens serving their sentences in US prisons, including Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian diplomatic source told the paper.
"We are aware about our citizen’s transfer and are determined to provide any kind of support to him, the way it was before," he noted.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is arriving in Beijing on Thursday following consultations with South Korea and Japan in Seoul. The top US diplomat is expected to persuade Washington’s allies that the US will not leave them in the lurch despite President Trump’s complimentary remarks about Kim Jong-un in the wake of their historic meeting, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
The North Korean leader stood to gain more from the summit than Trump, Konstantin Asmolov, a leading researcher at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with the paper.
"The mere fact of the meeting, which looked like a meeting of equals, is North Korea’s success," the expert stressed. He noted though that the meeting was marked by neither the surrender Pyongyang’s opponents were eagerly looking forward to nor a breakthrough anticipated by the other side. "The issue at hand is a long process. The Americans seem to be shifting towards North Korea’s gradual denuclearization approach," Asmolov pointed out.
"Let’s see what happens next. Actually, much will depend on the working negotiations, which will be conducted by Pompeo on the one hand, and someone of the appropriate rank from the North Korean side. A lot will also depend on how the US public will feel about the outcomes of the summit," the expert concluded.
Russia’s Federal Agency for Tourism, along with tourism market participants, has joined efforts to work out measures to attract foreign tourists to Russia as part of the national project to develop the country’s export potential, Kommersant writes.
According to Nikita Gusakov, Managing Director for Client Work at the Russian Export Center, the Russian Culture Ministry, the Central Bank and tourism businesses are also involved in that work.
Gusakov noted that the project’s objective is to increase the volume of tourism export services to $15.5 bln by 2024.
Member of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house of parliament) Social Policy Committee Igor Fomin believes revenues from tourism could grow to $30 bln within the next five or six years.
The senator noted that currently tourists spend about $300 per person in Russia on the average. "A considerable part of tourists in Russia are natives of the former Soviet republics. The tourist flow will increase automatically with the growing share of foreign guests," the paper quotes him as saying. Gusakov added that other measures to facilitate inbound tourism could include easing visa requirements and developing marketing research on the issue.
Meanwhile, Maya Lomidze, Executive Director of the Association of Russia’s Tour Operators, said negotiations with the Russian Foreign Ministry on easing visa requirements were underway. She added that the Russian Export Center would come up with a program, including measures proposed and supported by other participants, based on the results of their joint work.
According to Russia’s Federal Statistics Service, 24.39 mln foreign tourists visited Russia in 2017. China ranks first in the number of tourists coming to Russia (1.48 mln visits) followed by Finland (1.02 mln).
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