Chilling World Cup travel warning
SOCCER fans have been told to think "three times" before flying across the world to cheer on Tim Cahill and the boys in Russia.
The warning comes as diplomatic ties between Australia and Russia have become strained because of the attempted assassination of former spy Sergei Skripal in the UK.
The World Cup host nation has denied any involvement in the attack. However, after more than 20 countries expelled Russian diplomats, including two expelled from Australia, in a show of support to the UK, Russia has retaliated by expelling 59 diplomats, including two Australians.
Now, the Australian Government has updated its latest travel advice for those planning to visit Russia - warning of an "anti-Western sentiment" because of the tense political situation.
"Due to heightened political tensions, you should be aware of the possibility of anti-Western sentiment or harassment," the advice says.
"Remain vigilant, avoid any protests or demonstrations and avoid commenting publicly on political developments."
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack also advised Australians who are planning to travel to reconsider.
"There is obviously a diplomatic row at the moment after those nerve agents were used," he told the ABC today.
"If you don't need to travel to Russia at the moment then think twice, think three times, about doing it."
The strong statement comes after the UK has been seeking to punish Russia and announced that the royal family will shun the World Cup as part of the British response.
The outspoken British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has likened Russia's World Cup to Nazi Germany's Olympic Games in 1936 while another MP has called for the competition to be postponed or moved.
In a lengthy interview with a Russian TV channel, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the West of seeking to stop her country hosting this summer's World Cup.
"It's my impression that all they care about is taking the World Cup out of Russia," she said.
"They will use any means. Their minds are only on that football and God forbid it should touch a Russian football field."
In an act of solidarity with the UK, Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop last week gave two "undeclared intelligence officers" seven days to depart.
Ms Bishop told AAP the Russian Embassy staff had complied with the deadline and left the country.
Australia expelled the pair after the UK, US and European allies lined up to boot out alleged Russian spies following the nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England.
Britain has expelled 23 Russians, the US kicked out 60 and France and Germany have expelled four each. London blames Moscow for the attack but Russia denies involvement. The Kremlin has since retaliated, announcing it will expel two Australian diplomats as part of its "symmetrical" response to the various expulsions. Australia's two diplomats are expected home by Friday.
"Our first priority is to look after our staff by assisting those who will be returning to Australia and we ask that their privacy be respected," Ms Bishop and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a joint statement on the weekend.
- With AAP