Protection is ramped up following threats to fan safety by ISIS, Russian authorities say
Russia tightens security precautions for World Cup fans
Following the discovery online of potential ISIS sympathisers who have pledged to target FIFA World Cup fans, authorities said they had deployed the army, navy, and air force at a number of venues, including the Kaliningrad stadium where England will play Belgium on Thursday.
Russian state police said earlier on Wednesday that multiple bomb threats had been reported in Rostov-on-Don, a host city of the football games, forcing restaurants, hotels, and bars to be evacuated around the city late on Tuesday evening.
The Russian security agency responsible for counter-terrorism, the FSB, has been on high alert since the World Cup commenced on June 14. The force raided 17 locations across the country in April, arresting 20 terrorists plotting to target football games at various World Cup venues.
Members of an alleged terrorist cell supporting the ISIS group were also detained following an earlier raid in Rostov-on-Don in April, with supporters of the terror group releasing graphic propaganda showing beheadings of global football stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, ahead of the games.
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Arkady Dvorkovich, said in May that such threats should not alarm the public, as the “security of people is our top priority. All our security forces are working in close preparation with [FIFA’s] organising committee”.
He added that Russia is an experienced host of global sporting events, hosting the 2014 Winter Olympic Games at Sochi during a time of political tension in the North Caucasus region.
"We know how to do those things," Mr Dvorkovich said. "We had experience with the Olympic Games in Sochi, and other big international events”.
Alexei Lavrishchev, security chief of the World Cup, told the BBC before the World Cup commenced that the security measures taken are “unprecedented”, with “sufficient measures in place to ensure that football fans, tourists, and Russian citizens will feel comfortable and safe”.