Russian mayor urges locals not to hit visiting fans during World Cup 2018
Kaliningrad offical advises residents to leave the city ‘and relax in the countryside’ during the event
Russian president Vladimir Putin (centre): the Kremlin wants World Cup 2018 to be a showcase for Putin’s Russia, just like the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Photograph: Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via Reuters
Russian fans clash with England supporters in Marseilles at Euro 2016. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images
The mayor of Kaliningrad, a host city for the World Cup in Russia next year, has offered some striking match-day advice to its residents: don’t hit the foreign fans and leave town altogether if you can.
“I call on everyone to be hospitable, be kind, don’t hit anyone. If you speak English, help the tourists – give them advice, talk to them,” Alexander Yaroshuk said.
“One of the four matches held in Kaliningrad is bound to involve a top European [team]. The city will receive 70,000-100,000 tourists. It’s obvious that not all of them will get into the stadium,” he added.
“So residents should tidy up their yards. And the best thing would be to plan to leave the city and relax in the countryside.”
Mr Yaroshuk’s comments are unlikely to reassure football fans who fear a repeat of brutal scenes that marred the Euro 2016 tournament, when Russians fought English supporters in the streets of French cities.
Scores of England fans were injured in the fighting, and witnesses described the attacks by Russian supporters as exceptionally violent and highly co-ordinated, leading to speculation that they had trained especially for the event and may have links to their country’s security services.
Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, brushed off allegations that it had not done enough to stop known hooligans travelling to France. Some Moscow officials accused French police of unfairly jailing and deporting Russians, while others gloated about their “victory” over English fans, who were once football’s most feared hooligans.
“They are surprised when they see a real man looking like a man should,” said Vladimir Markin, who was then a spokesman for Russia’s powerful investigative committee. “They’re only used to seeing ‘men’ at gay parades.”
World Cup organisers insist they will do everything possible to ensure fans’ safety next summer, and the Kremlin wants the event to be a glittering showcase for Mr Putin’s Russia, as were the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
If the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland win their respective qualifying games against Denmark and Switzerland next month, they will each face a trip to one of 11 host cities for a tournament that starts on June 14th, 2018.
The Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad is the most westerly of venues that stretch from St Petersburg in the north, through Moscow and several major cities on the Volga river, to the southern resort of Sochi, nestled between the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains.