Russia To Resist Attempts To Expand OPCW Powers

Russia’s envoy to the organisation, Alexander Shulgin has revealed that Moscow will fight attempts to expand the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) powers by giving it the right to attribute blame for chemical weapons attacks.

“As far as I understand, by November the OPCW director-general will submit recommendations on the implementation of the decision that was adopted.

“Let’s see what recommendations will be made when they appear. But if we are talking about the imposition of attributive function, on the promotion of attributive function in the OPCW, we will resist as hard as possible,” Shulgin told Sputnik.

He said the OPCW cannot be allowed to assign blame for chemical weapons attacks as this is an encroachment on UN Security Council (UNSC) rights.

“Any attributive functions in the OPCW, delegating the Technical Secretariat functions of identifying perpetrators behind the use of chemical weapons is a direct encroachment on the UN Security Council’s prerogative.

“The decision that was made in June has a framework character … For now, it is a sketch, it is shaky.

“Even the authors of the decision do not fully understand what they are calling for. Various hypotheses are being suggested,” Shulgin said, when asked if it was possible to somehow remedy the situation.

The envoy added that 82 countries sided with the UK on the expansion decision, while 24 voted against it, but the 24 in question included India and China, which account for a large proportion of the population of the Earth.

“So there is no overwhelming majority that the British are talking about … There are many African countries [against the decision], there are Latin American countries. And I think this is not over.

“The number of our supporters will keep growing,” Shulgin said.

Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow considered the decision to enlarge the OPCW mandate illegitimate, while UK Prime Minister Theresa May lauded it as an example of efficient cooperation among EU countries.

US, Russia To Hold Summit

US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will meet in a third country at a date to be announced, the Kremlin said Wednesday.

“I can say that we have reached an agreement to hold a summit, we have even agreed on the time and the place of the meeting, and we will announce this obviously with our American colleagues tomorrow,” said Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov, adding that the meeting would be in a “third country”.

AFP

Russia Says U.S. Pulling Out From UNHRC Is Disrespectful

The U.S. decision to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) demonstrates its disrespect for the international body, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.

“The United States once again dealt a powerful blow to its own human rights reputation and demonstrated disrespect not just to UNHRC, but to the UN as a whole and to the structures that are part of it,’’ she said at a news briefing.

The U.S announced its withdrawal from UNHRC on Tuesday.

The U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, accused the UN human rights body of being “a protector of human rights abusers” and of bias against Israel.

The 47-member Geneva-based body has adopted a series of resolutions critical of Israel’s behavior toward the Palestinians, the latest in March, which irritated Washington.

Zakharova accused the U.S. of double standard by refusing to acknowledge the existence of human rights problems at home, on one hand, and attempting to reshape the UNHRC to suit its own political interests, on the other.

“The U.S. attempt to impose by force an extremely specific understanding of human rights on other states is in itself a gross deviation from universal human values and civilized norms of behaviour,’’ she said.

Zakharova also said that Washington’s current step, like its previously announced decision to abandon the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, confirmed that it is ready to “interact only with those multilateral mechanisms and only on those issues that meet the interests of Washington itself.”

“Russia hopes that the UNHRC will work effectively without the United States,’’ she said.

Russia Supports EU Proposal To Meet In Vienna

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has announced on Wednesday that Russia supported a European Union proposal to hold a meeting on the Iran nuclear deal in Vienna next week.

According to the country’s media, the deal between Iran and six world powers lifted most international sanctions in 2016 in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear programme, under strict surveillance by the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

European powers this week vowed to shore up the deal after United States President Donald Trump announced Washington’s withdrawal.

World Cup: Russia in Loggerheads with West

The World Cup kicks off in Russia in a month’s time with the hosts at loggerheads with the West and intent on using the football showpiece to trumpet their superpower status.

Russia was a controversial choice when it was handed the rights to the world’s most watched event in a 2010 vote now tainted by bribery charges.

That choice is possibly only more controversial today.

The years since have seen Moscow clash with the West over everything from Syria and Ukraine to the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in England.

Russia was even banned as a country from this winter’s Pyeongchang Olympics after being accused of state-sponsored doping at the Sochi Games it hosted four year earlier.

The diplomatic barbs have been laced with Cold War-era venom and accompanied by the largest expulsion of diplomats in history.

Yet Vladimir Putin is riding as high today as he was eight years ago.

The former KGB spy’s popularity with Russians remains unshakeable and his presence on the international arena is more dominant than when he first came to power in 2000.

The scandals and diplomatic wrangles have failed to generate a repeat of the boycott that saw nearly half the world stay away from the 1980 Moscow Olympics over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

And Putin will have the chance to wield the “soft power” afforded by the football showpiece to project himself as a man of domestic achievement and global bearing.

– ‘White elephants’ –
Yet the tournament also comes riddled with peril for Putin.

Russia has spent in excess of $13 billion (11 billion euros) — a World Cup record — on giving many of the 11 host cities their first post-Soviet facelifts.

Host city Saransk, for example, is best known for being the capital of a deserted region where Russia has set up female penal colonies.

Airports were rebuilt and expanded to accommodate crowds whose size Russia may not see again for some time.

Sleek hotels have gone up in places tourists rarely venture.

Twelve voluminous stadiums now loom over cities in the European part of Russia after being completed in the nick of time.

A part of Putin’s legacy will hinge on what happens to it all when the fans go home.

The $50 billion believed to have been spent on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi has had mixed results.

The Black Sea resort city looks modern and feels electric. Residents whizz around on silky smooth roads and travel in style from a comfortable airport and train station.

But the surrounding mountains that hosted the snow events are filled with abandoned hotels and FIFA will want to avoid such “white elephants”.

Seeing the World Cup transform other cities into what Sochi itself has become will be a monumental achievement that could unlock Russia’s economic potential.

Filling them with prestigious buildings no one ever uses will turn into another expensive mistake.

– Monkey chants –
Fans themselves will care little about the politics. Their main concern will be safely and swiftly getting to stadiums for the matches.

Those who plan to follow their team as they criss-cross from one venue to the next will be confronted with Russia’s sheer scale.

The 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) spanning the westernmost stadium in Kaliningrad and easterly one in Yekaterinburg translates into the distance between Moscow and London.

Host cities are four time zones apart and compare best to the travel teams and fans had to endure in the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

Foreigners will be further burdened by having to register with the police within a day of arriving in each new location.

Some will also be fearful of Russia’s history of hooliganism and racist abuse that has marred a string of recent matches.

Putin’s security services cracked down hard on football troublemakers to ensure there is no repeat of the battles that broke out between Russian and English fans at Euro 2016 in France.

And football anti-discrimination chief Alexei Smertin has spent the past year trying to eradicate racist behaviour in stadiums.

“We need to introduce personal responsibility so that fans who violate rules start being denied the right to go to stadiums and support their teams,” he said after more monkey chants rang out last month.

– Gutsy football –
FIFA boss Gianni Infantino wore a big grin in Sochi last week as he congratulated Putin for all Russia had already achieved.

“You are working to make this World Cup the best World Cup ever,” Infantino said.

Yet the chances of Putin celebrating many Russian triumphs on the pitch remain marginal. The host nation are the tournament’s second-lowest ranked team and have not won any of their last five matches.

Putin is a sports fanatic who will be present when Russia face Saudi Arabia — the one nation at the World Cup ranked below them — at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on June 14.

Russia will attempt to make the knockout stage of a major tournament for the first time in 10 years and have a relatively easy group.

But coach Stanislav Cherchesov has nowhere near the class of players of the likes of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo or Brazil’s Neymar — only goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev is a name known abroad.

Yet Putin spelled out clearly that he expected something special from the Russians at their first home World Cup.

“They must show gutsy, uncompromising football, one which the fans love,” the president said in Sochi.

(AFP)

“Missiles Will Be Coming” To Syria- Donald Trump

The United States President, Donald Trump has warned Russia on Wednesday of an imminent military action in Syria over a suspected poison gas attack, declaring that missiles “will be coming”.

Trump said this in response to Russia’s warning on Tuesday that any U.S. missiles fired at Syria over the assault on a rebel enclave would be shot down and the launch sites targeted.

He lambasted Moscow for standing by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming,
nice and new and ‘smart!’,” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

“You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” Trump said, referring
Moscow’s alliance with Assad.

In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said “smart missiles should fly towards terrorists, not legal government”.

Damascus and Moscow refer to rebels fighting Assad as terrorists.

The Syrian government and Russia say the reports of a poison gas assault on the Syrian town of Douma are bogus.

After the attack, the rebel group holed up in Douma – Jaish al-Islam – finally agreed to withdraw from the town.

That sealed a big victory for Assad, who has now crushed the rebellion in the eastern Ghouta region near Damascus.

Moscow’s threat to shoot down U.S. missiles came from the Russian ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin,
who said he was referring to a statement by President Vladimir Putin and the Russian armed forces chief of staff.

Zasypkin also said that any hostilities with Washington should be avoided and Moscow was ready for negotiations.

But his remarks could raise fears of direct conflict for the first time between major powers backing opposing
sides in Syria’s protracted civil war.

The WHO said on Wednesday that 43 people had died in Saturday’s attack on the town of Douma from “symptoms
consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals”, and more than 500 in all had been treated.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday it hoped all sides involved in Syria would avoid doing anything that could
destabilise an already fragile situation in the Middle East, and made clear it strongly opposed any
U.S. strike on its ally.

Moscow and Washington stymied attempts by each other at the UN Security Council on Tuesday to set up international investigations into chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Trump on Tuesday canceled a planned trip to Latin America on Friday to focus instead on talks with Western allies
about possible military action to punish Assad over the suspected gas attack.

Trump had on Monday warned of a quick, forceful response once responsibility for the attack was established.

“If there is a strike by the Americans, then … the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the
missiles were fired,” Zasypkin, the Russian ambassador, told Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV, speaking in Arabic.

The Russian military said on March 13 that it would respond to any U.S. strike on Syria by targeting any missiles
and launchers involved.

Russia is Assad’s most powerful ally and its devastating air power has helped him wrest back large areas of territory from rebels since 2015.

Zasypkin also said a clash between Russia and the United States over Syria “should be ruled out and therefore we
are ready to hold negotiations”.

 

Sanctions Against Russia To Develop For At Least 6 Years

Sanction Policies against Russia will last for at least 6 years by the Western states the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) think tank said in a report on Wednesday.

“We should expect the sanctions against Russia to develop for at least the next six years.

“The sender countries will target the most vulnerable parts of the Russian economy, society and political system.

“Level of integration of the Russian elites, intellectual and business communities, and major social groups with global institutions and processes will suffer most due to the sanctions.

“Moreover, instability in the economy and social area, amid continuing inequality as a result of these anti-Russia sanctions may lead to public protests in the country,’’ the think tank explained.

The think tank, however, called for preserving and strengthening Russia’s ties with other nations and eliminating the country’s social and economic vulnerabilities caused by the sanctions.

The RIAC added such policies would give Russian diplomats the room to maneuver in their contacts with the West.

“The main tactical objective today, is to prevent or limit as much as possible the process of ‘escalating sanctions.

RIAC said it was also to ‘’create conditions in which the sanctions do not produce the desired political results for the sender countries.’’

The U.S., EU member states and a number of other Western nations initially introduced their sanctions against Russia in 2014.

They cited Moscow’s alleged involvement in the military conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region and Crimea’s reunification with Russia as a result of a referendum for their action.
However, Russia has denied having a role in the conf

lict, saying that the Crimean referendum had been held in line with international law.

Moreover, Moscow imposed food embargo on products from the states which had targeted it with restrictions.
However, the classification of Western anti-Russia sanctions has significantly expanded since then.

Most recently, the U.S. imposed sanctions on 38 Russian individuals and entities, including major private and state-owned organisations.

 

The European Game Of Expulsions By Owei Lakemfa

Serious diplomacy has, this Easter Season, given way to the farcical drama of European countries expelling Russian diplomats, with the latters’ country also retaliating. This week, 25 countries, including non-European allies like the United States, Australia and Canada, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), had knocked out 158 Russian diplomats, with Russia absorbing the punches and throwing its own. There is the joke that American president, Donald Trump was watching the CBS 60 Minutes programme, when he was asked how many Russian diplomats should be expelled, and he looked at the screen, saw 60 Minutes and decided that 60 Russians should be expelled.

In descending into Cold War politics, no shots have been fired, and may not be; it is actually more of shadow boxing. The ostensible reason for this street musical is the tragic attempted murder of Russian double spy, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who were on March 4, found unconscious in Salisbury, Britain. Skripal was a Russian intelligence agent found guilty of “high treason in the form of espionage” and imprisoned in 2006 before being exchanged in 2010 for some Russians accused of spying in the US.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the poison used was a “military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia” and concluded that Russia was “highly likely” to have made the attempt. Also, the attack bore resemblance to the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who fled prosecution and took asylum in Britain. On November 1, 2006, he fell ill and passed away twenty days later. The autopsy showed he had ingested poison – polonium-2010, and the Russians were accused of administering it.

The Russians denied being behind the Salisbury attack and asked the British for evidence beyond mere suspicion. An angry Britain responded by expelling 23 Russian diplomats, and the latter retaliated by also expelling an equal number of British diplomats and shutting down the British Council in Russia.

The Euro-American outrage over the attack on Sergei Skripal is more political than a concern for human life. If this were not so, there should have been a similar wave of expulsion of Saudi Arabia diplomats for the country’s atrocious bombings of social gatherings, hospitals and schools in Yemen, which (according to the United Nations) had by November 2017 resulted in 5,295 civilian deaths and 8,873 injured.

As a non-actor in this drama, and examining Prime Minister May’s submission to the British Parliament this Monday, that no other country “has a combination of the capability, the intent and the motive to carry out such an act”, I wonder if this is the same country that produced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his fictional smart detective ‘Sherlock Holmes’. If it is true that the poison was the type produced in Russia, is there no possibility that a third country or party could have used it, knowing that Russia will be blamed?

As it is, Britain has no conclusive proof, no evidence, and makes no presumption of innocence; it simply found Russia guilty, probably on the basis of the latter’s ‘bad boy’ image. It is like a crime committed in a neigbourhood and the police asks itself ‘who is the bad guy around’ and concludes that he is not just the suspect, but is in fact guilty. There is a saying that if the witch cries in the night, and the child dies in the morning, who does not know that it was the witch that killed the child? For good old fashioned Britain, Russia is the witch; it must have carried out the attack.

Britain might have been quite distraught and emotional about the Salisbury attack, but how do you explain the herd-like reaction of over two dozen countries, expelling Russian diplomats? Is it just a matter of siding with an ally, even if its position is highly flawed or an attempt by the European Union to show Britain that it needs solidarity within a common union, rather than Brexit?

The Euro-American outrage over the attack on Sergei Skripal is more political than a concern for human life. If this were not so, there should have been a similar wave of expulsion of Saudi Arabia diplomats for the country’s atrocious bombings of social gatherings, hospitals and schools in Yemen, which (according to the United Nations) had by November 2017 resulted in 5,295 civilian deaths and 8,873 injured. Rather than call the Saudis to order and stop these war crimes, countries like United States and Britain have increased their weapon sales to the Saudis. The Independent newspaper reported that rather than caution the Saudis, Britain, in the wake of the Yemeni massacres, increased the number of British-made bombs and missiles sold to Saudi Arabia by almost 500 percent, with over £4.6 billion realised from these sales of arms.

I feel I am in a cinema hall waiting for the second part of this expulsion film; so I need to stretch my legs, get popcorn and a bottle of Zobo drink to watch Part II, which may be titled “Russia Retaliates”.

Perhaps the most honest admission that the reasons for the expulsion of Russian diplomats is primarily political, came from the NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, who told the press that the Salisbury attack was a mere trigger; he lists some of the sins of Russia: “We have seen the illegal annexation of Crimea, we have seen the destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine, we have seen cyber attacks, we have seen hybrid tactics, we have seen Russia investing heavily in modern military equipment and the willingness to use military force against neighbours”.

There is also the apprehension that Russia’s international image would be boosted by its hosting the 2018 World Cup, so there is need for Russia-bashing. Hence, amongst Britain’s ‘sanctions’ against Russia, is barring cabinet ministers and members of the royal family from the World Cup. Also, the British secretary of state for Foreign Affairs, Boris Johnson revealed that pressure is being put on the English team to boycott the World Cup in Moscow, because Russian president, Vladimir Putin would likely use it “like Hitler used the 1936 Olympics”.

So the international leaders of human rights and the sanctity of human life, have reduced the victims of the poison attack, to mere pawns in the chess game against Russia. The current expulsion game is like a reality show; even Stoltenberg admits that the primary effect on Russia is that the expulsions may reduce its capability to carry out intelligence work in the countries its diplomatic strength have been reduced. Generally, sanctions against Russia by the West have become seasonal with a lot of drama, but little effect. One major one was the 2014 sanctions over the Russian “annexation” of Crimea and its alleged interference in Ukraine.

I feel I am in a cinema hall waiting for the second part of this expulsion film; so I need to stretch my legs, get popcorn and a bottle of Zobo drink to watch Part II, which may be titled “Russia Retaliates”.

Russian Coach Cherchesov Bemoans Losses

World Cup hosts Russia were left to feel the pains of their successive loses to Brazil and France which bare their dire shortcomings ahead of the June kickoff to the international football extravaganza.

It was a month to forget for coach Stanislav Cherchesov and fans who cannot wait to see their team make it past the World Cup group stage for the first time since the Soviet era.

As well as the two defeats, racism reared its ugly head in Russian football once again, as French players Paul Pogba and Ousman Dembele were allegedly subjected to racial monkey chants on Tuesday.

The month began with bad news for Cherchesov as two starting defenders and a striker all suffered identical knee injuries that have ruled them out of the World Cup.

The impact of their absence was on vivid display in a 3-0 loss to Brazil on Friday in Moscow and 3-1 defeat by France in Saint Petersburg.

France’s Kylian Mbappe made Russia’s backline look pedestrian while scoring two and silencing the crowd of 50,000.

And only some instinctive saves from veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev had averted added humiliation as Russia were totally outplayed by Brazil.

“Except for Akinfeev and one or two others, I simply do not see anyone who can play at a high level at a tournament such as a World Cup,” former Russia coach Oleg Romantsev lamented.

 

– ‘We’re not ready’ –

Russia have not won in their last five matches 0 — all at home — and conceded a combined nine goals in their last three.

It is true that the four latest results came against teams of the highest calibre and included a 3-3 with Spain after a 1-0 defeat to Argentina in November.

But Russia had previously developed a reputation of playing up to the level of their competition.

The decision to line up four former World Cup winners in a row was meant to prove Russia had nothing to fear on home soil.

That claim now looks increasingly hollow after losing three of the four.

“If we lose, it shows we are not ready to play in the World Cup,” Russian Football Union member Andrei Sozin warned ahead of the France showdown.

Russia and Uruguay are still the favourites to progress from World Cup Group A, though, which includes Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

But their failure to do so would consign this generation of players to one of the darkest chapters of Russian and Soviet football history.

The problems for Cherchesov come at both ends.

The loss of striker Alexander Kokorin has left Fedor Smolov — author of Russia’s goal on Tuesday — as Cherchesov’s only proven scorer.

Moscow’s Sport Express newspaper said Russia will probably look to their attacking midfielders for salvation because they have no other viable striking options.

Yet it remains unclear how Cherchesov intends to patch up his back line without injured pair Georgy Dzhikiya and Viktor Vasin.

Sport Express called Russia’s problems at the back almost irreparable.

“There is no competition in defence,” the newspaper wrote.

“And the saddest thing is that time after time, we gave up goals after individual mistakes by centre backs who are simply a class lower than their competition.”

Russia’s stand-in centre-back Roman Neustadter strongly disagreed.

“The longer we play together before the World Cup, the better we will get,” he said.

Russia will close out preparations on May 30 in Innsbruck against Austria and June 5 against Turkey in Moscow.

Russia Expels 23 British Diplomats

Russia President Vladimir Putin has expelled 23 British diplomats from Russia.

This action is coming shortly after 23 Russian diplomats were expelled from the UK following a nerve attack on former spy Sergei Skripal in the Salisbury, England.

Asides expelling British diplomats, Russia also shut down the UK consulate in St Petersburg and the British Council cultural organisation. The Russian foreign ministry said the move was a “response to the provocative actions of the British side and baseless accusations of the Russian Federation relating to the Salisbury incident”. It warned the UK against “further actions of an unfriendly nature”.

After being updated by the British Ambassador in Moscow, Theresa May has warned the Kremlin that Britain will not be cowed by its decision to expel 23 British diplomats in an escalation of the dispute following the Salisbury attack.

Responding to President Putin’s decision to escalate diplomatic tensions, Mrs May told a gathering of Conservative Party members that his antics would not distract from the fact that Russia was “in flagrant breach of international law.” Speaking at the Conservative Spring Forum in London, Mrs May said Russia’s response, which includes shutting down the British Council, did not “change the facts of the matter”,

Mrs May said: In light of their previous behaviour, we anticipated a response of this kind and we will consider our next steps in the coming days, alongside our allies and partners.

“But Russia’s response doesn’t change the facts of the matter – the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable.

“It is Russia that is in flagrant breach of international law and the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

Mrs May reiterated her intentions to “dismantle” the Russian spy network operating out of the UK and to suspend all planned contact between the UK and the Kremlin.

She said: “We will never tolerate a threat to the life of British citizens and others on British soil from the Russian Government.”

 

Russian Football Clubs Promise Peace In Europe Despite Violence

Moscow clubs are all promising that their supporters will be well and perfectlybehaved as they resume European action on Tuesday . This came out after clashes involving Russian supporters in Spain in which a policeman died of a heart attack.

The violence between followers of Spartak Moscow and Athletic Bilbao on February 22 sprung up pandemonium suggesting  that hooliganism could mar the first World Cup hosted by Russia.

It also echoed a brutal attack by muscle-bound Russians on English fans before the start of a Euro 2016 match in the French port city of Marseille that shocked the sporting world.

The Marseille mayhem left 35 people injured — three of them seriously — and saw the Russians involved proclaim themselves champions of the thug world.

These are not the bragging rights World Cup organisers are proud of — and ones Moscow’s CSKA and Lokomotiv will want to shed on Thursday.

CSKA will host French side Lyon while Lokomotiv travels away to Atletico Madrid for last 16 Europa League matches at which Russian fans’ behaviour may be as important as the result.

‘Safe in Moscow’

The return of Russian supporters to Spain for Lokomotiv’s encounter against the red half of Madrid is being watched especially closely.

The Russian Premier League leaders’ president Ilya Gerkus took pains to condemn the violence in Bilbao in which a policeman later died of a heart attack and insisted that Lokomotiv supporters were much better mannered.

“What happened in Spain is horrible,” Gerkus told the TASS news agency. “But I am confident that our fans are not like those who did all that.”

CSKA spokesman Sergei Aksyonov agreed that any French concern about flying to Moscow was unwarranted.

“Our team have hosted a number of Champions League and Europa League matches in recent years,” Aksyonov told AFP.

“The visiting teams’ supporters always felt completely safe in Moscow.”

Russian football officials point to similar security fears arising before Liverpool and Manchester United Champions’ League games in Moscow against Spartak and CSKA in September.

Both matches passed off without incident despite the volatile possibility of the sides resuming their Marseille hostilities.

Spartak blames the Bilbao violence on a hostile press that stoked public fears of the Russians ahead of the match.

The Moscow team further accuses “Basque radical groups” of heeding those warning and pouncing on the Russians as they were approaching the stadium.

“We knew that we would not be welcomed in Bilbao,” Spartak deputy president Nail Iznmailov was quoted as saying by TASS.

The world football governing body FIFA also stuck by Russia the day after the incident.

“FIFA has complete trust in the security arrangements and comprehensive security concept developed by the Russian authorities and the Local Organising Committee,” a FIFA spokesperson told AFP.

“As demonstrated during the FIFA Confederations Cup last year, Russia’s already high security standards have been adapted to meet the specific needs of such major sporting events.”

Hooliganism experts say Russia’s powerful FSB security service has cracked down hard on football gangs and blacklisted many of their leaders ahead of the World Cup.

The Russian government’s official plan is to force both foreign and domestic supporters to undergo background checks before receiving a special FanID card required to attend World Cup matches.

A security source said Russian law enforcement agents were also working with their counterparts from England and other countries to determine which fans were safe.