ISSN 2330-717X

Decree To Allow Some 2018 World Cup Fans Multiple Visa-Free Entry To Russia

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A new presidential decree, after necessary legal changes are completed, will allow foreign holders of Fan IDs who attended matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be granted multiple visa-free entry to Russia until January 1, 2019.

According to official reports released by the Presidential Press Service and the Presidential Executive Office, Vladimir Putin had already discussed the initiative to use the Fan ID cards as documents for visa-free entry into Russia for foreigners with his Cabinet Ministers and at a meeting with the Security Council.

The initiative, viewed as a craft to promote public diplomacy and raise Russia’s image abroad, has been supported at the various levels of the state structure where the President held regular meetings to discuss the tentative or preliminary results of the FIFA World Cup. He has spoken publicly about this.

“Let us turn over this page, let us speak and think about the good. All fans behaved perfectly well, demonstrating the best qualities of sports fans. They demonstrated that sport and football can unite people on the basis of common principles and cultural and humanitarian values rather than disunite them,” Putin stressed.

Significant to recall here that at the opening, Putin said: “We prepared responsibly for this major event and did our best so that fans, athletes and specialists could immerse themselves in the atmosphere of this magnificent football festival and, of course, enjoy their stay in Russia – open, hospitable, friendly Russia – and find new friends, new like-minded people.” And therein lies the power of this fantastic game, which brings people together in spite of their differences in language, ideology and religion. Long live football!

Understandably, Putin wants to consolidate the achievements from the World Cup, further use the unique sports platform to promote tourism and broaden public diplomacy. Since the end of FIFA on July 15, he has assertively reiterated that foreign fans have had an opportunity to learn more about Russia and its people, millions have changed their opinion about the country.

While meeting with Russian Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives at International Organisations and Associations, to review and outline the main goals of Russia’s foreign policy, Putin stressed that “the World Cup attracted not only the heads of state and government from many countries, but also, and most importantly, hundreds of thousands of football fans from all across the world visited Russia.”

Putin reminded them about the significance and essence of public diplomacy. “They saw with their own eyes real Russia: open, friendly and modern. It is an obvious success and a major breakthrough – what is known as public diplomacy,” he told the gathering, present were both houses of the Federal Assembly, as well as Heads of Ministries and Agencies involved in international activities plus members of the research, expert and business communities.

Resultantly, Putin has called for using World Cup experience to lift excessive visa barriers and updating Russia’s visa regime rules. In his opinion, it is necessary to consider the practice of using Fan IDs at the World Cup, which enabled foreign citizens to enter Russia visa-free. The Fan ID may be used to update the visa regime rules including renewal, and lift barriers and procedures that are uncomfortable for people.

Earlier at the Cabinet meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets informed that during the World Cup, about 3 million foreigners visited the country over this period from June 14 through July 15, the highest number of tickets among foreigners were bought by fans from the United States, Brazil and Germany.

Golodets pointed out that “the championship was a turning point in breaking a great many stereotypes about our country. This is probably the first time that the people who attended the championship were able to form first-hand opinions about the country. Several million people now see Russia as an open, technologically advanced and hospitable country.”

Absolutely, this was a major achievement and it represented a major boost for expanding tourism in the country, she explained and added that the expectation was to make necessary infrastructural changes, including the construction of new hotels that would provide a stable base for higher numbers of tourists, both domestic and international.

Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev reported that his ministry has fulfilled in full its task of ensuring public safety during the World Cup. The relevant measures were taken during the football matches and Fan Fests.

Indeed, the World Cup has changed police attitudes too, if not temporarily. “Russian police officers were polite and tactful. Due to our measures, no serious violations of public order were recorded during the World Cup. Fans who committed minor offences received minor penalties,” he told the meeting.

“Given that foreign tourists with Fan IDs may be staying in Russia until July 25, we continue to operate in an enhanced mode. I would like to note that the introduction of the Fan ID cards and the system of access control helped in the efficient provision of public order,” Vladimir Kolokoltsev said in his assessment report.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, during her weekly media briefing, expressed great satisfaction and added that the MFA continues receiving messages about the enthusiasm regarding the organisation of the World Cup, the atmosphere surrounding the event, infrastructure and the country in general.

According to her, Russia in its role as the host of the World Cup had demonstrated yet again that it deserved the highest marks for the tournament. It has left an indelible impression on the memory of fans who arrived in the country from all over the world to support their squads.

Some said many stereotypes about Russia were shattered to pieces thanks to the perfect organisation of this spectacular event, the country wanted the whole world to enjoy, she pointed out at the briefing.

“The World Cup has unexpectedly become a meeting of civilizations for all groups of the population and for thousands of foreign tourists. The world media responded to the FIFA World Cup through the lens of observing our country, comparing myths with reality,” she acknowledged.

Zakharova concluded quoting one foreign media thus: “It’s very easy to fall in love with Russia where people take care of each other and are ready to help a stranger on the street even though they sometimes lack both the time and resources.”

Undeniably, in order to turn a new page and work towards a remarkable change, Russia should provide an example of openness and support the wish of thousands of fans to return again, to experience the culture, nature and traditions with their friends, relatives and children.

And as part of a plan to increase the tourist inflow, promote sustainable and practical public diplomacy, the Fan IDs strategy could be used in other future sporting and cultural events in Russia. According to the results of an independent survey, almost three quarters of foreign guests said they would like to revisit Russia. It’s an opportune time to change the shattered or staggering image abroad, good image that would eventually promote business utilizing the necessary strategies and instruments of modern public diplomacy.

Russia had the first edition of the FIFA World Cup from June 14 to July 15. The 2018 FIFA World Cup took place in eleven cities, namely Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.


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Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent research writer and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a board member of the Regional Council on Development of Relations with Africa, an economic and trade policy organization created by the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Moscow Region).

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