Russians assure British gov't over World Cup fan safety

Updated 2018-05-11 09:41:07 China Daily

Police from Russia and the United Kingdom are working to protect supporters traveling to the upcoming World Cup, British Foreign Office said, as Russian authorities have given the British government assurances that soccer fans at this summer's event will be safe despite fears of crowd violence.

According to the Foreign Office, people who attacked English fans at the Euro 2016 match in Marseille, France, have been banned from attending matches in Russia.

The Euro 2016 tournament in France was marred when Russian soccer hooligans attacked English fans before the teams' match in Marseille, with one England supporter being left with severe brain injuries.

In February, a 31-year-old suspect was arrested over the incident, and now faces up to 15 years in prison in France.

Around 10,000 English fans are expected to be going to the tournament, which starts on June 14, and Harriett Baldwin, a Foreign Office minister, said the Russian authorities had promised world football's governing body FIFA and the British government that they would be protected.

Baldwin said that managing the threat of violence had been one of the priorities of tournament planners over the last two years.

These fans will be traveling to Russia in the aftermath of a major breakdown in diplomatic relations between the countries following the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March.

Russia has denied responsibility for the incident, which led to tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions in both the United Kingdom and Russia.

The Foreign Office said: "Due to heightened political tensions between the UK and Russia, you should be aware of the possibility of anti-British sentiment or harassment at this time."

The government website also has a specific section dealing with travel to the World Cup.

It said UK police have made four visits to Russia in the past year, with Russian police visiting the UK twice in the last nine months, and that there will be a British embassy presence on match days in all cities where the England team are playing, as well as a 24-hour telephone advice service.

Baldwin said that police cooperation had been strong "but clearly as with any football event this is a risk that does need to be closely worked on and the risk of violence needs to be mitigated".

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