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Putin promises troubled World Cup stadium will be ready

Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25: Vladimir Putin, President of Russia speaks as FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter looks on during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

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MOSCOW (AP) Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised FIFA that a much-delayed stadium in St. Petersburg will be ready in time to host Confederations Cup and World Cup matches.

The 69,000-seat stadium in St. Petersburg has had repeated problems, including worker deaths, cost rises and technical issues. The field wobbles because of a poorly installed mechanism that allows it to slide in and out of the stadium.

“It’s a very lamentable story,” Putin told FIFA President Gianni Infantino on Friday at a meeting in the Kremlin, adding “the construction workers promise to fix everything by the end of this year.”

They were speaking a day ahead of the draw for next year’s Confederations Cup. The final of that tournament is scheduled to be played in St. Petersburg on July 2. The stadium is also due to host a World Cup semifinal match in 2018.

The St. Petersburg stadium has taken almost a decade to build, with so many scandals that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called it “disgraceful” in 2012.

Last week, a former deputy governor of St. Petersburg was arrested on suspicion of embezzling 50 million rubles ($777,000) on a contract to supply display screens to the stadium, though the city government said as much as $10 million more may be missing.

The stadium is set to cost more than $600 million. Until the ruble dropped sharply in value in 2014 against the backdrop of international sanctions and a low oil price, the same ruble budget was worth more than $1 billion, making it one of the most expensive soccer stadiums in history.