UK Foreign Office issues warning to Britons
Russian hooligans and political tension noted
Asians, Afro-Caribbeans and LGBT community "at risk"
British football fans traveling to Russia for the World Cup have been warned about threats of racism and violence by Russian “hooligans,” including “heightened risks” to members of the LGBT community.
A UK Foreign Affairs Committee report released on Friday said LGBT individuals are at “significant risk,” as they “not only face the risk of violence from vigilante groups, but lack adequate protection from the state.”
Pride in Football, an alliance of LGBT fan groups, provided the Foreign Affairs Committee with two threatening emails they had received ahead of the World Cup. One included an image of a man threateningly wielding a knife.
A Human Rights and Democracy Report published by the UK Foreign Office in 2016 said LGBT members were at risk of “persecution and violence” in Russia, with the government “taking little action to combat homophobia.”
The Foreign Office’s travel advice to Russia includes warnings of “racially motivated attacks,” adding that travelers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent may “attract some unwanted attention in public places and should take care.”
Up to 10,000 British nationals are estimated to attend the tournament which begins on June 14, when Russia faces Saudi Arabia in Moscow. England’s first match is against Tunisia on June 18 in Volgograd, roughly 1,000 kilometers south of Moscow.
Curbing abuse on the pitch
The Russian Football Association was fined roughly $30,000 by FIFA last month, for racist chants during a friendly played against France in St. Petersburg. Manchester United star Paul Pogba was one of the players subject to monkey chants, according to the Associated Press.
England defender Danny Rose, recently revealed to the Evening Standard newspaper that he asked his family not to travel to Russia “because of racism and anything else that may happen.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
To combat further incidents, FIFA is introducing a “dedicated anti-discrimination monitoring system” for all matches in Russia, according to a statement on Thursday.
The system will enable match referees to “stop, suspend, or even abandon” a match “in case discriminatory behavior does not cease.”
“We have also worked together with several participating teams on preventive and educational measures, including, of course, the hosts Russia,” FIFA’s head of sustainability and diversity Federico Addiechi said in the statement.
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Political tensions high
Political tensions since the poisoning of former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, in Salisbury, England in early March were highlighted alongside the threat of terror in the Foreign Affairs Committee’s report.
“You should be aware of the possibility of anti-British sentiment or harassment,” the report said, adding that displaying the English flag in public “could bring increased attention and risk.”
The risk of a terror attack during the World Cup is “very likely,” according to the Foreign Office, “while groups aligned with al Qaeda and Daesh continue to call for attacks.”
Despite the multitude of warnings, the UK Foreign Office said the risks “fall short of the level where it would be appropriate to advise UK nationals not to go to Russia.”
Last month British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson concurred. “We are not actively trying to dissuade (fans preparing to go to Russia for the World Cup), as we do not think that would be right,” Johnson told MPs.
“It is up to the Russians,” he added. “it is on their honor to guarantee the safety, not just of British fans, but of fans from around the world.”