Locust swarms pose threat to World Cup pitches - Russian official

FILE PHOTO: Locusts are seen in a meadow near a wheat field near the town of Neftekumsk, Russia, May 24, 2012. REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Swarms of locusts pose a threat to Russia’s soccer World Cup as they could attack stadium pitches and cause a “global scandal”, an Agriculture Ministry official said on Wednesday.

President Vladimir Putin is hoping to use the World Cup from June 14 to July 15 to showcase his country as a superpower at a time of frayed relations with the West over Syria and Ukraine.

Matches will be played in 12 stadiums in 11 cities. Pyotr Chekmarev, head of the agriculture ministry’s crop farming department, said the pitches could be targeted by locusts during the summer months.

“One way or another, we have learnt how to deal with locusts, but how do we not fall into a global scandal with locusts this year?” he said at an agricultural event in Moscow.

“The whole world is coming here. Football fields are green. Locusts love it where there is lots of green. How would they not come to the place where football is being played?”

Chekmarev said around a million hectares of land in southern Russia was infested with locusts, including around the World Cup host city of Volgograd.

Reporting by Olga Popova; Writing by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Andrew Osborn