RFU issue warning to supporters visiting capital for Champions League games against CSKA and Spartak Moscow
RUSSIA has issued an extraordinary warning to Liverpool and Manchester United fans to behave when their teams play in Moscow this week, or risk jail terms in the country’s grim prison system.
The threat comes from the Russian Football Union (RFU) – equivalent of the FA – and makes clear the full force of Vladimir Putin’s anti-hooliganism laws will be used against any troublemakers.
Liverpool play Spartak in the Champions League tomorrow night, while Manchester United take on CSKA in the same competition 24 hours later.
There are signs that Russia is using the games to send out a hardline message on its plans to crush hooliganism ahead of next year’s Fifa World Cup finals.
The warning to supporters of the two Premier League clubs was issued by Major-General Vladimir Markin, until recently the mouthpiece for the powerful Russian Investigative Committee, tackling the country’s most serious crime and seen as the Kremlin’s version of the FBI.
Markin, who has now taken on a pivotal role with the RFU ahead of the World Cup, said: “I don’t mean to threaten anyone but I would like to warn those who plan to come here not to root for their teams and take in the sights of the country but to indulge in hooliganism: our laws concern all, not only Russians.
“Those who violate them will be punished – it is not ruled out that they will have to stay in Russia a little longer and that such stays may not be so pleasing.”
Russia imposes a maximum seven years in grim jails or penal colonies for hooliganism crimes.
His warning was directed at English fans aiming to come to the Russian capital “to demonstrate their violent and rampant temper”.
Markin added that “all others are gladly welcomed here” – and will receive “Russian hospitality”.
Markin, now chief of the RFU’s committee on security and “working with fans”, stressed that Russia has cleaned its act up since the ugly Euro 2016 scenes involving Russian and English fans in Marseilles.
Fans’ leaders in Russia – especially in hardcore “ultra” groups – have confirmed that the authorities including police and FSB security service, once headed by Putin, have put intense pressure on them to avoid trouble in the run up to the World Cup and during the showpiece tournament.
A heavy presence of armed police can be expected in Moscow for this week’s games.
Alluding to the low level of Russian crowd trouble recently, he said: “There has been nothing this season that might mar the championship.”
“It is necessary to analyse the history of all championships, not only in Russia. It will help make certain conclusions on how to arrange security.
“I am confident this championship is having positive impact on security arrangements for the World Cup. Our task is to take preventive measures in terms of security.”
The 2018 Fifa World Cup matches will be played in 11 Russian cities from in June and July 2018.
In his last job, Markin attacked the US for a large-scale corruption probe targeting nine Fifa officials linked to the resignation of of longtime Fifa president Sepp Blatter.
His bizarre response was to suggest a probe into the US moon landings.
He claimed footage of the landings as well as 400 kg of lunar rock had vanished.
He said: “We are not contending that they did not fly [to the moon], and simply made a film about it.
“But all of these scientific – or perhaps cultural – artefacts are part of the legacy of humanity, and their disappearance without a trace is our common loss. An investigation will reveal what happened.”