Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin threw his weight behind his country's powerful bid to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup when he told visiting FIFA inspectors that Russia would do everything to organize the World Cup at the highest level.
"If FIFA grant us the honor to hold the World Cup, we are ready to provide them with all possible government guarantees," Putin said. "That means we are ready to put into action visa-free regime for the participants and the guests of the World Cup."
As Russian president, Putin headed the country's delegation at the IOC meeting that resulted in the resort city of Sochi getting the 2014 Winter Olympics, and his support for the World Cup is seen as critical to Russia's effort to beat out England and two other European bids.
Plans call for 13 cities in four regions to host matches: Kaliningrad and Saint Petersburg; Moscow and Moscow metropolitan towns; Yaroslavl, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Kazan, Saransk and Volgograd along the Volga River; and Rostov, Krasnodar and Sochi in the south.