As an estimated 2.5 million fans are set to visit Russia for this year’s FIFA world Cup, Randall Gordon-Duff, Head of Product – Corporate Travel, at insurance and assistance provider Collinson, highlights his top five biggest security risks to watch out for in Russia this summer.
More than 3.2 billion people will be watching this summer’s World Cup on television – with 2.5 million lucky ticket holders there to see it live. But anyone planning to send staff to Russia during the tournament should make sure to take proper precautions.
Businesses owe employees a duty of care, and should ensure that they are fulfilling this obligation, especially with the increased risks that the World Cup will bring.
In our opinion the five biggest security risks to watch out for in Russia this summer are:
Whilst Russia’s crime rate has improved, it is still relatively high. Street scams, pickpocketing and bag snatching occur frequently, especially in tourist areas, and unlicensed taxis have been known to operate, charging substantial fares or robbing passengers. Visitors during World Cup season should only use licensed taxis and remain vigilant at all times, especially if alone or out after dark, whilst leaving valuables safely secured in their accommodation if possible.
2. Civil Unrest
As Vladimir Putin has been elected for another term, travellers can expect some limited protests from opposition groups in major urban areas. The main danger here is if visitors find themselves in the middle of unrest or protests, as authorities may well adopt a blanket approach of subduing and arresting anyone in the area, rather than asking questions first. The best course of action is to find a safe place such as a hotel and wait until the situation is over. The risk of more widespread public unrest during the World Cup is extremely limited, and protests are likely to be tightly controlled by police.
The threat posed by cyber-attacks against business and personal computers, smartphones and other devices during the World Cup should not be underestimated. There is documented evidence of state-sponsored hackers targeting hotel Wi-Fi networks, and travellers are advised to take steps to ensure they are secure. Using a virtual proxy network or a secure shell is recommended as a bare minimum, as well as having two-factor authentication enabled.
Militant groups, including IS affiliates, may try to target high-profile events within Russia, including the World Cup. An ongoing crackdown on militancy, coupled with increased security measures around stadia and urban areas, will reduce the likelihood of an attack, but travellers should remain vigilant and follow any instructions from security services at the event.
Due to the scale of Russia, transport is a much bigger logistical challenge than at many previous World Cup locations. For example, as an England fan, assuming you start at Volgograd for the first fixture and travel from there to the next two, you would have to travel nearly 1,700 miles and drive for a total of 35 hours in the space of just ten days. For this reason, as well as the poor road safety in Russia (there were over 27,000 deaths on Russian roads in 2015 alone), visitors are advised to use alternative means of transport.
Fan-ID, which all ticket holders are required to obtain, entitles holders to access certain free transport services, including inter-city trains and public transport in host cities. Whilst the Fan-ID does not cover flight costs, due to the large distances visitors may opt to fly between fixtures, and numerous operators will be running frequent services between cities.
As well as these risks, it is worth noting that standards within the Russian healthcare system have declined markedly since the end of the Soviet Union and the system can be confusing and difficult to navigate without assistance. For this reason, businesses should ensure travellers have the appropriate level insurance and are aware of the location of medical facilities.
With adequate insurance and safeguards in place, sending employees to Russia during the World Cup need not be a stressful experience, even with the increased risks the tournament