Russia readies for FIFA World Cup with a year to go
Despite fears over security and construction delays at several stadiums, Russia looks largely on course one year from the kick-off of the World Cup in June 2018.
There was already a whiff of scandal around the first World Cup to be held in Eastern Europe after Swiss authorities opened a probe into possible corruption during the bidding for the event.
Then worries of hooligan violence surged after gangs of Russian fans grabbed headlines by rampaging through the streets of Marseille at Euro 2016.
But for strongman President Vladimir Putin the World Cup is an invaluable chance to burnish Russia's prestige as the country has slumped to its worst standoff with the West over Ukraine and Syria.
And authorities insist they have all problems firmly in hand as they gear up for a test-run with the Confederations Cup tournament starting in second city Saint Petersburg on June 17.
The World Cup will be the biggest international event that Russia has hosted since it lavished huge sums on staging the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
So far only four of the 12 World Cup stadiums - Saint Petersburg, Kazan, Sochi and the Otkrytie Arena in Moscow -- are up and running for the warm-up Confederations Cup.
The finishing touches are also being put to the iconic Luzhniki stadium in Moscow -- which is set to hold the World Cup opener and final -- with a trial game scheduled for