Russia 2018 chief executive Alexei Sorokin has rejected claims that the country’s staging of the Fifa World Cup could be hit by an “international locust scandal” that would see the insects damaging pitches for this year’s football showpiece.

Earlier this week, Russia’s agriculture ministry warned that plagues of locusts could destroy playing surfaces at the tournament, with southern Russia and the Volgograd region cited as particular areas of concern.

However, the Associated Press news agency cited Sorokin as stating that “locusts present no danger to soccer fields” because “the grass on soccer fields is very short and it’s sprayed with certain substances.”

Sorokin said “we try to look at this with humour, can’t say anything else. It’s not a threat.”

Locust swarms are an issue in southern Russian, where they often attack whole fields of crops in the warmer months, occasionally leading to local states of emergency being declared.

“We have more or less learned how to deal with locusts, but this year I’m afraid we could end up in an international locust scandal,” Pyotr Chekmaryov, who oversees plant protection at the agriculture ministry, had said. “Soccer fields are green. Locusts like places where there is a lot of green. What if they fly to the places where football is played?”

Speaking at a conference of agricultural experts, Chekmaryov said it was “our responsibility” to ensure that Russians do not “disgrace ourselves in front of global society, especially where we will have guests from all over the world.”

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