A senior Russian lawmaker has called on her countrywomen not to have sex with foreign men visiting the country during the World Cup, saying Russian women “should give birth to our own.”
In an interview with radio station Govorit Moskva, Tamara Pletnyova, the chairperson of the Duma committee on families, women and children, said she was concerned about a rise in single mothers.
Ahead of the quadrennial tournament, which kicks off in Moscow tonight with hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia, she said Russian citizens should marry each other and “build a good family, live together, give birth to children and educate them.”
Pletnyova was responding to a question about a spike in births from foreign fathers following the 1980 Moscow Olympics – an era in Soviet Russia when contraception was much less readily available.
“These children then suffer and have suffered even from Soviet times,” she said.
“You know this perfectly well. It’s fine if they’re one race, but not if they’re from a different race. I’m not a nationalist, but still. I know the children suffer, then they get abandoned and that’s it, they stay with their mom here.”
The press office of Pletnyova’s committee said the lawmaker did not plan to make further comments.
Another legislator made similar remarks to Govorit Moskva on Wednesday, according to a transcript released by the radio station.
Alexander Sherin, a member of the Duma defense committee, said that massive sporting events “are always a favorable background for the spread of infectious diseases.
“When it comes to the fact that people come from all over the world, from different climatic zones, they cannot adapt so well, and they can become aggravated by diseases. Maybe the body of a European will somehow react to contact with people from other continents.”
Sherin also expressed concern about visiting Western fans, worrying that they might “spread around some kinds of narcotic substances.”
Up to a million fans from the 31 other competing countries – Russia qualified automatically by virtue of being the host nation – and beyond are expected to descend on Russia’s capital Moscow during the month-long tournament, the organizers predict. Tourists will also be visiting 10 other host cities in the country for a total of 64 matches.
The 2018 edition of the tournament has been beset with a number of social worries, and the Russian government has made efforts to promote the World Cup as taking place in a tolerant and friendly atmosphere, despite simmering geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West.
The Russian Football Union appointed retired Chelsea midfielder Alexei Smertin to lead efforts to combat racism and discrimination during the World Cup.
“It is very important to continue working with a younger generation of fans and young players, explain to them through games and sports about respect not only for their team, but also for their rivals, to convey the idea that everyone in this world is equal,” he said in May, according to a statement cited by the state news agency TASS.
British fans traveling to Russia for the World Cup have been warned about threats of racism and violence by Russian “hooligans,” including “heightened risks” to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
A UK Foreign Affairs Committee report released earlier in June said LGBT fans are at “significant risk,” as they “not only face the risk of violence from vigilante groups, but lack adequate protection from the state.”
The Foreign Office’s travel advice for Russia includes warnings of “racially motivated attacks,” adding that travelers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent may “attract some unwanted attention in public places and should take care.”
Racially motivated attacks or those on LGBT fans combine with concerns over the safety of English supporters after Russian hooligans caused trouble during the 2016 European Championship in France, clashing with rival supporters.
Both Russia and England were threatened with expulsion from the tournament following acts of violence between fans.
The UK Foreign Affairs Committee also highlighted potential tensions with British tourists that could arise out of a diplomatic row between the two nations following a March 2018 nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy in the English city of Salisbury.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, brushed aside suggestions that there would be trouble from Russian fans at the tournament, and said that Russian women would “sort out all their questions themselves,” in reference to Pletnyova’s comments.
“I ask you all to look at the Fan ID and read what is written at the bottom there,” Peskov told journalists in Moscow on a conference call, referencing the “say no to racism” slogan found on the bottom of the tournament’s Fan ID badges.
“This characterizes in the best way the atmosphere of the event and the approach with which Russia is immersed in this atmosphere. Regarding our Russian women, they will sort out all their questions themselves. They are the best women in the world.”
CNN’s Emma Burrows contributed to this report.