Russian football hooligans face a crackdown forward of World Cup

Moscow, Russia – On a Saturday evening, thousands of football fans in red and white scarves streamed to a Otkritie Arena track in Moscow amid complicated military presence. FC Spartak Moskva was to play a initial compare after a two-week mangle in March.

Spartak, that is opposed for a Russian Premier League trophy, was to horde Tosno, a tiny football bar from a Leningrad region. At kickoff time, zone B of a stadium, where Spartak’s scandalous ultras traditionally stand, was scarcely quiet.

“We’ve motionless a initial half to be still in memory of a Kemerovo victims,” pronounced one fan in zone B, who did not give his name. A week earlier, a selling centre had burnt down in a Siberian city of Kemerovo, murdering 64 people, including some-more than 40 children.

During a second half, a ultras resumed their common chants accompanied by 3 drums, though even they were toned down. Tosno is not deliberate a vital opposition team, and a compare was not as sparkling as a derby, fans said. But there was also another reason for a relations calm: Some Spartak hooligans now have to keep a low profile.

“People try to act now,” pronounced another fan, who also did not give his name. “These days we can get a anathema for a smallest thing, for smoking a cigarette during a stadium.”

Although zone B fans were demure to pronounce to journalists, those who did speak to Al Jazeera during a compare pronounced many were underneath vigour from confidence agencies forward of a World Cup. They are being watched and spasmodic harassed, they said.

“I’m covering my face so military don’t see me. They have cameras, they watch,” pronounced one zone B fan wearing a black headband opposite his mouth and nose who pronounced his name was Igor. He and his dual friends, who gave their names as Artem and Gari, pronounced some fans are fearful of branch adult on a blacklist and being criminialized from attending World Cup matches. One of their friends is already on that list, they said.  

But Spartak ultras, who have been concerned in aroused incidents during home and abroad, are not a usually ones who have felt augmenting vigour from a Russian confidence apparatus. Hardcore fans of other Moscow teams who Al Jazeera spoke to, also pronounced that a military and FSB have strong inspection and nuisance of fan organisations and hooligan groups, quite after violent clashes during a 2016 European Championship in that Russian fans were involved.

A fan chants during a compare between Spartak Moskva and Tosno in Moscow, Russia on March 30, 2018 [Sergey Kozmin/Al Jazeera]

World Cup blacklists

In Jun 2016, during a Russia-England Euro 2016 compare in a French city of Marseille, assault erupted between English and Russian fans, ensuing in dozens being harmed and arrested. After a incident, Russia’s inhabitant organization was handed a suspension warning. Russian President Vladimir Putin called a clashes  an “absolute disgrace” and pronounced Russian authorities would work with fan organisations on “discipline among fans”, while a conduct of a Russian Football Union (RFS) and stream sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, called it a “set-up” and “disrespect” opposite a RFS.

Russian ultras told Al Jazeera that vigour on them strong after Euro 2016. Since then, confidence agencies have responded to aroused incidents during home and abroad with some-more astringency and have put ultras underneath surveillance.

It was after a Euro 2016 that Alexander Shprygin, conduct of a All-Russia Union of Supporters (VOB) and an FC Dinamo Moskva ultra, was arrested twice by a military and his home and bureau were searched. Shprygin, who used to attend in organising meetings for a World Cup and was seen to be lucky by Mutko in a past, had to postpone VOB activities. In Sep 2016, a Russian Football Union dissolved VOB’s membership and called on Russian football fans to form another association.

Shprygin, who was deported twice from France after a Marseille incident, was indicted of being related to a clashes in Marseille and of being an organiser of a large quarrel between football hooligans in Moscow in Jan 2016. He denies both accusations.

Alexander Shprygin was deported for a second time from France after he returned and attempted to attend a Russia – Wales compare during a Euro 2016 [Reuters/Jean Paul Pelissier]

Shprygin told Al Jazeera that after his dual arrests in 2016, a military stopped bothering him, though final year, during a Confederations Cup in Russia, he had his fan ID revoked usually before a Russia-New Zealand compare he was going to attend. The fan ID is a ask expelled for a Confederations Cup and a World Cup that grants a sheet hilt entrance to a stadium.

Shprygin pronounced he viewed an email usually before a diversion revelation him that his fan ID had been cancelled. Other ultras also faced cancellations, including Vasily “Killer” Stepanov, a famous Spartak hooligan who is famous for his pro-Kremlin domestic views. Shprygin pronounced he was fearful a same could occur for him during a World Cup.

The Russian interior ministry has kept a blacklist of people who are criminialized from attending sports events since Jul 2016. The list is published frequently online, and, as of Apr 6, had a names of 454 organization on it, many underneath a age of 35. Neither Shprygin nor Stepanov was on that list.

But according to Shprygin, there is an choice register that a interior method has not publicly released, that contains a names of during smallest 1000 football fans. It is for fear of that list that some football hooligans have attempted to keep а low profile, he said.

Shprygin himself was viewed to suffer domestic subsidy in a past. Apart from being lucky by Mutko, he was also famous to be a member of a ultra-nationalist LDPR celebration and an help to Igor Lebedev, a emissary authority of a State Duma and member of a same party. He has also attended meetings and has been photographed with Putin.

But Mutko appears to have cold his support for football fan leaders and according to Russian sports publisher Maksim Allanazarov, Shprygin and Lebedev no longer proclaim their relаtions either. 

“Currently a authorities don’t have an seductiveness in cosying adult to [football] fans. For that reason no one would support them openly. And forward of a World Cup this is positively normal,” he said.

Alexander Shprygin (middle) walks with then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko (left) to lay flowers on a grave of a football fan who was killed in clashes after a football compare in Moscow in December, 2010 [AP around RIA Novosti /Alexei Nikolsky]

Home searches, arrests, trials

Beyond a hazard of being blacklisted, in a past year and a half, Russian ultras have also faced detentions and justice cases.

“The military are really actively examination football fans, and all violations on a track are noted,” Shprygin told Al Jazeera. “While before, once we leave a stadium, we could forget about what happened there, now they’d come to your home, they’d find you, they’d hunt your house, they’d call we for a ‘talk’.”

While, before a Marseille clashes, some violations during football matches would not be taken so severely by a confidence agencies, in a summer of 2016, they started impediment members of football organisations, even over their impasse in incidents of a past.

In Jul 2016, a homes of dozens of FC Zenit ultras were searched, and a series of them were incarcerated in tie with an conflict on members of a football girl academy in Sep 2015.

In Jun 2017, 5 Lokomotiv Moskva fans were put on trial over extremist chants. They were indicted of job for “extremist actions” after their ultras’ organization chanted “Kill a Albanian!” during a Lokomotiv-Skenderbeu (Albania) compare in 2015. The defendants were not arrested until late 2016.

The military also started enormous down on reduction serious violations. In a tumble of 2016, a justice box was non-stop opposite Spartak and CSKA fans over a use of fireworks and derogative chants. FSB and officers from a anti-extremism centre “E” carried out searches and arrests of football fans from both teams.

According to a Lokomotiv Moskva fan, who asked not to be named, “repressive” measures have also been taken opposite teams outward Moscow and St Petersburg.

He pronounced a police pressured fans of FC Kaluga, a lower-division organization formed in a city of Kaluga, 180 km south of Moscow, to a indicate where some stopped going to matches. In Jul 2017, a fan organization called FC Kaluga Support expelled a statement on amicable media, observant that they were frozen activity since of “repression by law coercion agencies”.

In Nov 2016, confidence agencies also searched more than 20 homes of members of a “Fiery Force” fan group, who support lower-division FC Fakel in a city of Voronezh. The officers confiscated “extremist” novel and weapons, and arrested their leaders. The pierce came after a quarrel between Fakel and Dinamo Moskva fans. After a incident, nuisance of Fakel fans continued. There was even a box in that a whole organization of fans were arrested on their approach to a derby match, a Lokomotiv fan said.

In Apr 2017, 29-year-old Evgeny Gavrilov, personality of a fan organization called TOYS ancillary FC Krylia Sovetov in a city of Samara, was put on trial for organising an “extremist group”.

Russian fan movements have been famous for far-right and “extremist” views and aroused attacks on migrants. In a past, hardcore football fans used to attend a “Russian March” – an annual eventuality organized by far-right groups in Moscow and other cities.

But according to a Lokomotiv fan, who himself has revolutionary domestic views, after a events in Ukraine in 2014, a participation of a distant right in stadiums opposite Russia started to decrease. That coincided with a crackdown by a confidence agencies on far-right domestic groups. TOYS, however, was a initial football fan organization to be announced “extremist” by a Russian court.

As a outcome of these measures, some ultras have motionless to stop going to matches. According to a member of a FC Torpedo fan transformation – a smaller Moscow-based organization – some hardcore fans have stopped attending Russian tournament matches since of a “special attention” they were removing from a police.

“There is a large series of fans still going to games. But there is one sold organization [of hooligans] who are fewer in series during matches,” a 24-year-old who asked to be identified usually as Alexei told Al Jazeera.

Russian and English fans quarrel in a stands after a Euro 2016 football compare between England and Russia, during a Velodrome track in Marseille, France [AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis]

Russian hooligans going abroad to fight

Despite a flourishing vigour opposite them, not all football hooligans have given adult their aroused ways. According to Shprygin, some have started going abroad to be means to get into fights.

“Russian fans go to have fights abroad since in Russia it’s turn some-more formidable to do so,” he told Al Jazeera.

In March, Spartak fans clashed with FC Athletico Bilbao fans after a Europa League compare in Bilbao, Spain. Two people were harmed and 9 arrested.

In February, Spartak ultras headed to Greece to face off with FC Dinamo Kiev fans, who were ostensible to attend a compare between their organization and Athens-based FC AEK.

In Nov 2017, Maksim “Tuk” Seryogin, a scandalous Spartak hooligan, showed adult with a few associates to a compare between CSKA Sofia and Lokomotiv Plovdiv in a Bulgarian city of Plovdiv. According to internal media, after Seryogin’s provocations, CSKA ultras pennyless a confidence blockade and clashed with their Lokomotiv peers on a pitch. Seryogin was beaten adult by CSKA fans and after incarcerated by a military for 10 days. Footage of a fighting after showed adult in a video published on Seryogin’s Youtube channel.

But not all skeleton to go abroad have been successful. According to Shprygin, progressing this year, confidence agencies found out about a Spartak hooligans’ devise to go to France and quarrel with CSKA ultras during a UEFA Europa League match. They “visited” a hooligans and warned them opposite streamer to France, he said. The Russian interior method did not respond to a ask for criticism from Al Jazeera.

According to Allanazarov, a confidence measures a Russian authorities are holding will forestall any aroused occurrence from function during a World Cup. “The military would respond with astringency to even a smallest hazard of disturbances,” he said. 

All a football fans who Al Jazeera spoke to, also pronounced that notwithstanding fears and media reports about a hazard of violence, there won’t be vital aroused incidents. 

“Some consider there will be reprisals for France and Poland, though there won’t be,” Alexei, a Torpedo fan said, referring to a European Championships in a dual countries (Russian fans were also concerned in clashes during the Euro 2012).

After a World Cup, a confidence agencies would ease down and “things would go behind to normal,” he said.

But according to sports publisher Allanazarov, tough confidence measures during football matches in Russia are here to stay. 

Follow Mariya Petkova on Twitter: @mkpetkova

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