Silence regime. Law enforcement structures neutralize ultras and criminals during 2018 FIFA World Cup 

Silence regime. Law enforcement structures neutralize ultras and criminals during 2018 FIFA World Cup
Many Western media outlets note the high level of security in cities hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup Photo: The CrimeRussia

The Russian authorities have tightened security during the first world football championship in the national history. Unparalleled security measures have been imposed in all the 11 cities hosting the FIFA games. The CrimeRussia reviewed the efforts taken by the enforcement structures to prevent any excesses at the international sports event so important for our country.

In 2009, Russia has won the right to host the largest world football event in a competitive struggle with nine other countries – but the championship coincided with a diplomatic crisis in relations with Western countries and economic sanctions imposed against a number of Russian companies and businessmen.

After the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK, the British authorities have put the blame upon Russian secret services, and Prime Minister Theresa May announced a boycott of the 2018 FIFA World Cup by members of the royal family and ministers. Iceland, Australia, and Poland joined this boycott.

Our
notes

Since June 14 to July 15, 2018, the 2018 FIFA World Cup is taking place in Russia for the first time in the national and East European history. Games of the final stage of the 21st world football championship are hosted by 12 stadiums in 11 Russian cities: Moscow, Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Volgograd, Kazan, Samara, Saransk, Rostov-on-Don, Sochi, and Yekaterinburg. 32 teams participate in the final tournament. More than 1.5 million foreign fans are expected to visit Russia. In the first 7 days of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, some 700 thousand people have attended its games. According to JLL, Russia has spent 683 billion rubles ($10.8 billion) on preparations to the mundial (according to RBK Group – 883 billion rubles ($14 billion)), including 437.8 billion rubles ($6.9 billion) allocated from the state budget and 226.3 billion rubles ($3.6 billion) in private investments. In 2013, it was planned to spend 30 billion rubles ($474.6 million) on the championship security, but the budget has been repeatedly changed since then, and the final security costs may be much higher. On June 21, the State Duma has approved at the third reading Amendments to the Law On Federal Budget for 2018 and Planning Period of 2019–2020 stipulating the allocation of additional 189.4 million rubles ($3 million) for the security of 2018 FIFA World Cup facilities.

“You better stay at home” 

This is the general message conveyed to football fans by a number of foreign governments and media outlets. Since April, the Western media had predicted empty stadium stands and VIP boxes during the mundial and published scary stories about Russian fans preparing attacks against foreigners and “hatred atmosphere in Russia”. Governments had openly persuaded their citizens to abstain from visiting the championship due to the threat of violence. Foreign media had called the 2018 FIFA World Cup a “Potemkin village of Putin worth $14 billion” created to throw dust in eyes of the world and reduce the international tensions and laughed at Tamara Pletneva, Chairperson of the Committee for Family, Women’s, and Children’s Affairs of the State Duma, warning Russian women against having sex with foreigners during the championship. A statement that “infiltrators may enter Russia under the disguise of fans to spread dangerous drugs and purposively infect Russians” made by Aleksander Sherin, Deputy Chairman of the Committee for Defense of the State Duma, was met with derision as well. Ilya Yashin, Deputy Chairman of the People's Freedom Party (PARNAS), and opposition activist Leonid Volkov had criticized the “Russian world cup” in The Daily Beast and Bild, while The Guardian named the first game between the Nigerian and Croatian national teams “a racism test”. 

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Tamara Pletneva

Deputy Chairman of the Committee for Defense of the State Duma, was met with derision as well. Ilya Yashin, Deputy Chairman of the People's Freedom Party (PARNAS), and opposition activist Leonid Volkov had criticized the “Russian world cup” in The Daily Beast and Bild, while The Guardian named the first game between the Nigerian and Croatian national teams “a racism test”.    

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Human Rights Watch had addressed world leaders calling for a boycott of the opening game of the 2018 FIFA World Cap; a day before its beginning, it has published a 44-page guidebook for journalists dedicated to systematic human rights violations in Russia and warning fans against aggressive homophobia and xenophobia acts of Russians.

The fans were especially recommended to avoid Chechnya – picked by the Egypt national team as the training base – by all means and never relax in Russia. Amnesty International activists have supported their colleagues.

In fairness, it must be said that Russia had given plenty of reasons for such warnings. Take for instance, the recent ‘anti-gay' purge in Chechnya where, according to human rights activists, dozens of people suspected of homosexuality were tortured and extrajudicially killed. Ultras of all countries remember very well the notorious ‘Marseille battle' during the UEFA Euro 2016 where some 300 Russian fans have battered several thousands of Englishmen (over 30 people were admitted to hospitals, two of them – in critical condition) throughout Marseille and crushed everything on their way.

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Our
notes

Ultras are well-organized and usually not registered officially groups of active fans of football clubs (more rarely, of other sports teams). The movement has emerged after World War II in Italy and Croatia. Currently, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Serbian, Turkish, and Swedish ultras groups uniting thousands of members are considered the strongest. Many Russian clubs of the top, first, and even second divisions have their ultras as well. Most powerful European ultras organizations maintain direct contacts with the management of their football clubs and affect the clubs' policies. Ultras groups are actively involved in commercial activities of their teams and run their own stores, bars, pubs, and real estate businesses, thus, earning funds to organize the audiovisual support of their teams. The signature aggressiveness of football fans that had frequently resulted earlier in fights during and after the games has recently decreased. After a series of mass disturbances (including such notorious episodes as the Heysel Stadium Disaster in 1985 in Belgium during a game between Liverpool and Juventus (39 people killed and more than 600 injured), Port Said Stadium riot in Egypt in 2010 (74 people killed and more than 500 injured), and brawl on Matokeo stadium in Congo in 2010 (13 people killed and 36 injured)), a number of national governments have imposed tight restrictions against football hooligans.

However, true football fans are not that easy to scare. According to the FIFA, 2.4 million tickets to the mundial games were purchased as of June 8, including 872 tickets bought by Russian citizens. The top 5 foreign countries at the championship are the USA (88,825 tickets) whose national team hasn’t passed the qualifying stage, Brazil (72,512 tickets), Columbia (65,234 tickets), Germany (62,541 tickets), and Mexico (60,302 tickets). Some 50 thousand fans arrived to Russia from Argentina, 40 thousand – from China, almost 37 thousand – from Australia, 43 thousand – from Peru, and 32,362 tickets were purchased by Britons.

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Saransk turned into Latin America

By the eighth day of the championship, the worst expectations of the world community haven’t come true. Of course, some incidents and crimes occur from time to time – all mass events in the world are always accompanied by pocket picking and swindling. According to Oper Slil (Detective Leaked) Telegram Channel, the fan zone on Vorobievy Gory in Moscow is especially abundant with such crimes. Football fan Juan from Columbia is the leader by sustained damages: valuables worth 50 million rubles ($791 thousand) have been stolen from his room in 4 Seasons Hotel. Most severe incidents include the battering of two French gay people in St. Petersburg by Caucasus natives (one of the victims was hospitalized with a cranio-cerebral injury), assault on a Peruvian fan in Yekaterinburg (basal skull fracture), and ramming of a taxi into the pedestrian crown on Ilyinka street in Moscow on June 16 injuring 8 people, including three Mexican fans; one of them was hospitalized in serious condition.

To the credit of the Russian law enforcement authorities, most crimes are solved without delay and the offenders are promptly arrested. According to the operative information, the majority of thefts are committed by fans themselves. It is known that three Mexicans and one Iranian citizen are currently detained in the Moscow Pretrial Detention Facility № 5 on suspicion of committing crimes. The Federal Penitentiary Service has confirmed this information and noted that the cells are equipped in accordance with the law, the detainees are provided with everything they need, and the prison administration includes people knowing foreign languages. 

Navalny, who was released from the Moscow Special Detention Center № 2 after serving 30 days of administrative arrest shortly before the 2018 FIFA World Cup, had joked that Moscow penitentiary institutions are ready to accommodate foreign guests. According to his Instagram post, all the cells of the special detention center have been completely renovated, prison bars painted, toilet bowls installed instead of holes in the floor, while the exercise yard equipped with football gates and balls. In addition, "large LCD screens have been installed to allow the inmates to watch the football matches". Navalny has also noted that the food in the special detention center became better, including shish kebab, Tiramisu, and non-alcoholic beer. Later the headquarter of Navalny has called his post "a joke". It is known however that there are no jokes without a reason.  

A week after the mundial beginning, amid hundreds of thousands of positive comments posted by foreign fans on social networks and praising all aspects of Russia– from its fast-food to girls – the tone of the Western media became more benevolent. The Independent has published an article by Oliver Carroll describing how delighted with Russia the British fans are.

“Everything is so over the top. I was speaking to a Russian ultras fan yesterday, and he had the words Marseilles 2016 tattooed on his calf. But all he wanted to do was hug me,” – says Alex Pierce, 19, from Frodsham, Cheshire.

The friendliness of Russian people is so surprising that it even raises a red flag for some foreign fans.

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Another influential British newspaper, The Guardian, has published an article entitled “Ten things we have learned from the first round of World Cup games” stating that the public appreciation of Russia is to improve significantly after the mundial. The opinion on the Russian national team has already changed. For instance, German newspaper Spiegel, who had claimed after the Russian victory over Saudi Arabia that the Russian national team won’t get out of the group, has apologized to it in an article entitled “I'm sorry Russia, we're wrong”.

A number of Western media outlets note the high security level in cities hosting the world championship. Mark Roberts, a deputy chief constable and the UK national lead for football policing, said that Russia was over-concerned about the security during the mundial.

Amid the foreign policy issues and growing global terrorism threat, the security at the 2018 FIFA World Cup was one of the top priorities for the Russian authorities. The enforcement services started preparations to the championship after the publication of the Presidential Decree On Tightened Security Measures to be Applied during the 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup on May 11, 2017.

The key difference between this decree and a similar one issued in anticipation of the Sochi Olympics is that the tightened security measures are imposed not in one city – but in 11 at once. The special regime has been introduced since May 25 to July 25, 2018 in Moscow, Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Volgograd, Kazan, Samara, Saransk, Rostov-on-Don, Sochi, and Yekaterinburg. In that period, all people arriving at these cities must register themselves with the police and de-register prior to the departure. For Russian and foreign citizens living in hotels, health resorts, boarding houses, hostels, and tourism bases, this process won’t cause any problems: the administration of the accommodation facilities is responsible for their registration. But those renting private accommodation have to register in person, and the police are monitoring the compliance with this requirement.


The entrance of motor vehicles, including private buses, to these cities is restricted. To enter, the vehicle must be equipped with ERA-GLONASS system transmitting the required information about the bus to the respective authorities. This requirement does not apply to intercity buses and regular municipal bus routes.

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According to the official championship web site, foreign transport operators may receive the equipment required to enter the cities hosting the games for free after making a deposit payment at the entrance to Russia in 138 centers located near the border crossing points. The deposit payment will be returned in exchange for the equipment on departure. 

The decree emphasizes that all mass events – pickets, meetings, and rallies – in the cities hosting the games must be agreed with the local administrations. The legal turnover of civilian weapons – hunting, sports, and self-defense – is drastically restricted during the mundial; it is completely forbidden to purchase and register hunting rifles and traumatic pistols in that period. 

Dozens of thousands of policemen, National Guard troopers, and other law enforcement operatives ensure security at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They use the most advanced equipment, including cameras with face detection function installed at the transport infrastructure and zeppelin-based National Guard high-altitude surveillance complexes equipped with gyrostabilized high-resolution cameras.

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Oko-1 zeppelin

According to Reuters, hundreds of policemen have been dispatched to the cities hosting the championship from other regions for the duration of the games. For instance, some 10 thousand police officers and 1500 National Guard troopers have arrived to Samara. The detached operatives are accommodated mostly in hostels of city universities whose students are already on holidays.

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Non-governmental enforcement structures, including cossacks, are also involved in the security provision. 200 cossacks are patrolling Rostov-on-Don, 70 – Kaliningrad, while 500 mounted and pedestrian cossacks of the Kuban Cossack Army maintain public order in Sochi.

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The reputation of cossacks was severely damaged after the dispersal of a protest rally on Pushkinskaya square in Moscow by people in cossack uniform armed with whips on May 5, 2018

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The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation plays the key role in the provision of security during the mundial. Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev had personally inspected the work of his subordinates in all the 11 cities prior to the championship and launched on the basis of the All-Russia MIA Advanced Training Institute in Domodedovo, Moscow region a Center for International Police Cooperation – police officers of countries participating in the 2018 FIFA World Cup are involved in the security maintenance as well. 

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Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev during a work visit to Yekaterinburg

The Russian police have been carrying-out crime prevention activities since the beginning of the year. The CrimeRussia wrote earlier that in anticipation of the mundial, the Russian law enforcement services have undertaken a series of prophylactic measures to reduce the activity of thieves-in-law controlling various criminal structures.

For instance, the operatives have strongly recommended crowned thief Avtandil Kobeshavidze (Avto) released from the Kopeisk Penal Colony in January 2016 not to visit Yekaterinburg. In late May, officers of the MIA General Administration of Criminal Investigation and Moscow Criminal Investigation Department had a similar prophylactic talk with thief-in-law Guram Chikhladze (Kvezhoevich) controlling several brigades of bag snatchers in Moscow. 

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Thief-in-law Guram Chikhladze (Kvezhoevich)  

According to our source in the MIA, the police have tightened the administrative control over recently released persons and repeated offenders. For each violation, the regulated person is charged with a regime breach, and after 2–3 such incidents, the police address the court to change the imposed restrictions from administrative control to six months in a penal colony. 

According to Novaya Gazeta newspaper, the law enforcement structures pay close attention to Russian ultras as well.

The Russian scenario resembles the situation in Britain where ultras are completely controlled by the police – for instance, travel passports were seized from 1300 British football hooligans put on file by the police.

Another frequently used measure is a written pledge not to leave the city.

Members of the Russian ultras movement told on condition of anonymity that not only had the police operatives held prophylactic talks with ‘unreliable fans’ – but also warned that if something goes wrong, the legal businesses run by the fan movements, including sports schools, stores, bars, etc., would be immediately shut down.

In view of this, Novaya Gazeta considers trustworthy the statement made recently by Vladimir Markin, the newly-elected Chairman of the Committee for Security and Fan Liaison of the Football Union of Russia and former general of justice and Community Liaison Officer of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR), who said that Russian fans are not going to cause any trouble during the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

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Vladimir Markin

The law enforcement structures have also taken efforts to avoid whipping up tensions during the championship. Reuters reports, citing its two sources in the Russian law enforcement authorities, that the supreme MIA command has instructed its regional branches to put on hold the publication of ‘bad’ news – thefts, murders, arrests, etc. – on their web sites and in operations reports in the period of June 5 – July 25, 2015. Vladimir Vorontsov, a representative of the Interregional Police Trade Union, and a high-ranked source of Reuters in a regional MIA administration have confirmed the existence of this instruction.

A photo of a telegram signed by police colonel Aleksander Tarushkin, Deputy Police Chief for Public Order of the MIA Administration for Transport for the Central Federal District, published by the Police Ombudsman VK community also confirms the existence of the Order On Silence Regime. The telegram instructs regional press services to focus, instead of ‘negative news’, on crime prevention activities. Therefore, Reuters concludes that the Kremlin is trying to create a positive image of an open and welcoming country.

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According to Telegram channels, MIA structures have been unofficially instructed not to interfere into Russian fans’ celebrations and treat them loyally. This was confirmed after the victory of our team over Egypt – a video appeared on the Internet showing football fans breaking a dome light on Teatralnaya subway station in the presence of police officers. The MIA has reacted to this video in its Twitter as follows: "There are cameras everywhere. Everything will be OK. Congratulations on the victory!!!". Later that comment was removed.    

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The reverse side of the security measures imposed by the Russian law enforcement authorities is described by many fans on social networks. They write about kilometer-long lines to enter the stadiums, detailed personal searches, SWAT troopers maintaining security at nightclub parties, etc. According to Associated Press, in the center of Kazan, police patrols are deployed every 500 meters. A similar situation is observed in Nizhny Novgorod: double checkpoints, X-rays, barrier tapes... In the center of Yekaterinburg, police officers stand near bars and block all roads around the stadium a few hours before the game. The Reuters source also notes that the dispatch of thousands of officers to the cities hosting the mundial has depleted the police forces in other Russian regions, which affects their everyday work. Temporary roadblocks have been established on several vehicular entrances to Moscow    

Have the law enforcement authorities overdone it? Perhaps. But when it comes to the security, it is always better to overdo than to underdo. It is premature to draw conclusions yet. But it can already be said that the most politically-charged and expensive world cup in the football history became a true challenge both for the players of the Russian national team and law enforcement structures. So far, they are undergoing this challenge with dignity.


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