Russian soccer hooligans face a crackdown forward of World Cup


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Moscow, Russia – On a Saturday night, thousands of soccer followers in pink and white scarves streamed to the Otkritie Enviornment stadium in Moscow amid heavy police presence. FC Spartak Moskva become once to play its first match after a two-week fracture in March.

Spartak, which is vying for the Russian Premier League trophy, become once to host Tosno, a exiguous soccer club from the Leningrad area. At kickoff time, sector B of the stadium, the build Spartak’s notorious ultras historically stand, become once surprisingly mute.

« We now like made up our minds the first half of to be mute in reminiscence of the Kemerovo victims, » talked about one fan in sector B, who failed to give his name. Every week earlier, a browsing centre had burned down within the Siberian city of Kemerovo, killing 64 of us, including extra than forty childhood.

In the center of the 2d half of, the ultras resumed their traditional chants accompanied by three drums, nonetheless even they had been toned down. Tosno just is just not regarded as a vital rival team, and the match become once not as thrilling as a derby, followers talked about. But there become once moreover one other motive for the relative aloof: Some Spartak hooligans now wish to support a low profile.

« Of us attempt to behave now, » talked about one other fan, who moreover failed to give his name. « This say day you may per chance presumably well presumably accumulate a ban for the smallest part, for smoking a cigarette on the stadium. »

Even when sector B followers had been reluctant to talk to journalists, these that did take a look at with Al Jazeera on the match talked about many had been under tension from security agencies forward of the World Cup. They’re being watched and now and all over again confused, they talked about.

« I’m covering my face so police don’t inquire of me. They’ve cameras, they inquire of, » talked about one sector B fan carrying a shaded scarf across his mouth and nose who talked about his name become once Igor. He and his two visitors, who gave their names as Artem and Gari, talked about some followers are scared of turning up on a blacklist and being banned from attending World Cup matches. One in all their visitors is already on that checklist, they talked about.  

But Spartak ultras, who were fascinated about violent incidents at dwelling and in a single other country, are not the good ones who like felt increasing tension from the Russian security apparatus. Hardcore followers of diverse Moscow groups who Al Jazeera spoke to, moreover talked about that the police and FSB like intensified scrutiny and harassment of fan organisations and hooligan groups, notably after violent clashes for the length of the 2016 European Championship in which Russian followers had been alive to.

World Cup blacklists

In June 2016, for the length of a Russia-England Euro 2016 match within the French city of Marseille, violence erupted between English and Russian followers, leading to dozens being injured and arrested. After the incident, Russia’s nationwide team become once handed a disqualification warning. Russian President Vladimir Putin known as the clashes  an « absolute shame » and talked about Russian authorities would work with fan organisations on « self-discipline among followers », whereas the pinnacle of the Russian Soccer Union (RFS) and latest sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, known because it a « area-up » and « disrespect » against the RFS.

Russian ultras told Al Jazeera that tension on them intensified after Euro 2016. Since then, security agencies like responded to violent incidents at dwelling and in a single other country with extra severity and like build ultras under surveillance.

It become once after the Euro 2016 that Alexander Shprygin, head of the All-Russia Union of Supporters (VOB) and an FC Dinamo Moskva extremely, become once arrested twice by the police and his dwelling and office had been searched. Shprygin, who used to remove part in organising conferences for the World Cup and become once seen to be favoured by Mutko within the past, had to droop VOB actions. In September 2016, the Russian Soccer Union dissolved VOB’s membership and known as on Russian soccer followers to like one other affiliation.

Shprygin, who become once deported twice from France after the Marseille incident, become once accused of being linked to the clashes in Marseille and of being an organiser of a huge war between soccer hooligans in Moscow in January 2016. He denies every accusations.

Shprygin told Al Jazeera that after his two arrests in 2016, the police stopped bothering him, nonetheless final year, for the length of the Confederations Cup in Russia, he had his fan ID revoked pleasant before the Russia-Unique Zealand match he become once going to support. The fan ID is a document issued for the Confederations Cup and the World Cup which grants a ticket holder entry to the stadium.

Shprygin talked about he acquired an email pleasant before the game telling him that his fan ID had been cancelled. Other ultras moreover confronted cancellations, including Vasily « Killer » Stepanov, a successfully-known Spartak hooligan who is smartly-known for his pro-Kremlin political opinions. Shprygin talked about he become once anxious the connected may per chance presumably moreover happen for him on the World Cup.

The Russian interior ministry has kept a blacklist of these which may per chance per chance be banned from attending sports events since July 2016. The checklist is printed on a conventional basis on-line, and, as of April 6, had the names of 454 males on it, most under the age of 35. Neither Shprygin nor Stepanov become once on that checklist.

But based on Shprygin, there may per chance be an more than a number of roster that the interior ministry has not publicly released, which contains the names of as a minimum a thousand soccer followers. It is for alarm of that checklist that some soccer hooligans like tried to support а low profile, he talked about.

Shprygin himself become once perceived to experience political backing within the past. Other than being favoured by Mutko, he become once moreover known to be a member of the extremely-nationalist LDPR occasion and an aide to Igor Lebedev, the deputy chairman of the Relate Duma and member of the connected occasion. He has moreover attended conferences and has been photographed with President Putin.

But Mutko seems to like withdrawn his enhance for soccer fan leaders and based on Russian sports journalist Maksim Allanazarov, Shprygin and Lebedev now not publicise their relаtions both. 

« In the intervening time the authorities haven’t got an ardour in cozying up to [football] followers. For that motive no person would enhance them overtly. And forward of the World Cup here is fully traditional, » he talked about.

Dwelling searches, arrests, trials

Past the menace of being blacklisted, within the past year and a half of, Russian ultras like moreover confronted detentions and court docket circumstances.

« The police are very actively watching soccer followers, and all violations on the stadium are noteworthy, » Shprygin told Al Jazeera. « Whereas before, when you leave the stadium, you’d moreover disregard about what came about there, now they’d come to your build, they’d fetch you, they’d search your build, they’d name you for a ‘talk’. »

Whereas, before the Marseille clashes, some violations at soccer matches would not be taken so severely by the protection agencies, within the summer season of 2016, they started gripping members of soccer organisations, even over their involvement in incidents of the past.

In July 2016, the homes of dozens of FC Zenit ultras had been searched, and a vary of them had been detained in reference to an attack on members of a soccer childhood academy in September 2015.

In June 2017, five Lokomotiv Moskva followers had been placed on trial over racist chants. They had been accused of calling for « extremist actions » after their ultras’ neighborhood chanted « Raze the Albanian! » at a Lokomotiv-Skenderbeu (Albania) match in 2015. The defendants had been not arrested till gradual 2016.

The police moreover started cracking down on less severe violations. In the autumn of 2016, a court docket case become once opened against Spartak and CSKA followers over utilizing fireworks and derogatory chants. FSB and officers from the anti-extremism centre « E » performed searches and arrests of soccer followers from every groups.

In maintaining with a Lokomotiv Moskva fan, who asked not to be named, « repressive » measures like moreover been taken against groups exterior Moscow and St Petersburg.

He talked about the police compelled followers of FC Kaluga, a lower-division team based within town of Kaluga, a hundred and eighty km south of Moscow, to the purpose the build some stopped going to matches. In July 2017, a fan organisation known as FC Kaluga Give a enhance to released a assertion on social media, asserting that they had been freezing assignment thanks to « repression by rules enforcement agencies ».

In November 2016, security agencies moreover searched extra than 20 homes of members of the « Fiery Force » fan neighborhood, who enhance lower-division FC Fakel within town of Voronezh. The officers confiscated « extremist » literature and weapons, and arrested their leaders. The pass came after a war between Fakel and Dinamo Moskva followers. After the incident, harassment of Fakel followers continued. There become once even a case in which a total neighborhood of followers had been arrested on their system to a derby match, the Lokomotiv fan talked about.

In April 2017, 29-year-musty Evgeny Gavrilov, chief of a fan organisation known as TOYS supporting FC Krylia Sovetov within town of Samara, become once placed on trial for organising an « extremist neighborhood ».

Russian fan actions were known for some distance-pleasant and « extremist » views and violent attacks on migrants. Previously, hardcore soccer followers used to support the « Russian March » – an annual tournament organised by some distance-pleasant groups in Moscow and diverse cities.

But based on the Lokomotiv fan, who himself has leftist political opinions, after the events in Ukraine in 2014, the presence of the some distance pleasant in stadiums across Russia began to lower. That coincided with a crackdown by the protection agencies on some distance-pleasant political groups. TOYS, on the opposite hand, become once the first soccer fan organisation to be declared « extremist » by a Russian court docket.

As a results of these measures, some ultras like made up our minds to prevent going to matches. In maintaining with a member of the FC Torpedo fan circulation – a smaller Moscow-based team – some hardcore followers like stopped attending Russian tournament matches thanks to the « special consideration » they had been getting from the police.

« There is a expedient chance of followers aloof going to games. But there may per chance be one narrate neighborhood [of hooligans] who’re fewer in number at matches, » the 24-year-musty who asked to be identified finest as Alexei told Al Jazeera.

Russian hooligans going in a single other country to war

No matter the increasing tension against them, not all soccer hooligans like given up their violent programs. In maintaining with Shprygin, some like started going in a single other country to be ready to accumulate into fights.

« Russian followers breeze to like fights in a single other country this means that of in Russia it be change into extra hard to attain so, » he told Al Jazeera.

In March, Spartak followers clashed with FC Athletico Bilbao followers after a Europa League match in Bilbao, Spain. Two of us had been injured and 9 arrested.

In February, Spartak ultras headed to Greece to face off with FC Dinamo Kiev followers, who had been supposed to support a match between their team and Athens-based FC AEK.

In November 2017, Maksim « Tuk » Seryogin, a notorious Spartak hooligan, showed up with a number of friends at a match within the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv between CSKA Sofia and Lokomotiv Plovdiv. In maintaining with local media, after Stepanov’s provocations, CSKA ultras broke the protection fence and clashed with their Lokomotiv visitors on the pitch. Seryogin become once overwhelmed up by CSKA followers and later detained by the police for 10 days. Photos of the preventing later showed up in a video printed on Seryogin’s Youtube channel.

But not all plans to head in a single other country were marvelous. In maintaining with Shprygin, earlier this year, security agencies stumbled on out a pair of Spartak hooligans’ view to head to France and war with CSKA ultras for the length of a UEFA Europa League match. They « visited » the hooligans and warned them against heading to France, he talked about. The Russion interior ministry failed to acknowledge to a query for commentary from Al Jazeera.

In maintaining with Allanazarov, the protection measures the Russian authorities are taking will prevent any violent incident from taking place for the length of the World Cup. « The police would repond with severity to even the slightest menace of disrturbances, » he talked about. 

All soccer followers Al Jazeera talked to moreover talked about that, in spite of fears and media experiences in regards to the menace of violence, there gained’t be vital violent incidents. 

« Some judge there can be reprisals for France and Poland, nonetheless there gained’t be, » Alexei, the Torpedo fan talked about, referring to the European Championships within the 2 countries (Russian followers had been moreover fascinated about clashes on the Euro 2012).

After the World Cup, the protection agencies would quiet down and « issues would return to traditional, » he talked about.

But based on sports journalist Allanazarov, tricky security measures at soccer matches in Russia are here to effect. 

Follow Mariya Petkova on Twitter: @mkpetkova

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