Russia’s World Cup chief Alexey Sorokin has defended the country’s homophobic censorship laws.

Mr Sorokin told World Football Insider that the anti-gay legislation was targeting the “promotion of homosexuality and not homosexuality itself.”

He said this was an important distinction that had been “widely misinterpreted” by the rest of the world.

Mr Sorokin claimed the laws would not affect athletes and that the Russian Government had given “the highest assurances that no athlete or fan would be affected by the law unless they went out of their way to be actively involved in propaganda.”

The Football World Cup is to be held in Russia in 2018 and in the run up to the Sochi Winter Olympics next year both events have come under scrutiny with calls for the two sporting events to be pulled from Russia. It is widely feared by LGBT campaigners that fans and athletes risk being prosecuted by the legislation.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has continued to state that Russia is not a homophobic country and that the laws shall not impact on either the Winter Olympics or the Football World Cup in 2018. However, lawmakers have repeatedly said that the laws shall not be suspended during the Sochi Games.

The International Olympic Committee and FIFA have both stated that neither event shall be moved from Russia rather both organisers shall raise their concerns with their Russian counterparts in the run-up to the Winter Olympics.