Police have been ordered not to publish any information about crimes during the World Cup as Vladimir Putin attempts to craft an image of Russia as a transgression-free zone.
With fears lingering of a terrorist attack like the bloody underground bombing last year in St Petersburg, near where the England team is based, Moscow has deployed missile launchers and anti-drone jammers at stadiums.
Regional cops have been dragooned to patrol host cities, leaving their home towns complaining of shortages.
The media blackout underlines the push to make the national prestige project a success after Vladimir Putin told police in February that the “ image of the nation depends upon the thoroughness of your work”.
In a copy of a document seen by The Telegraph, a colonel in Russia’s central federal district ordered subordinates to “cease publishing in the mass media information about investigative operations and preventative measures” from June 5 to July 25.
He also said police should monitor social media to “catch negative information about the activities of interior ministry organs and leadership”.
Police departments in Russia’s 85 regions have not published any news about catching criminals or solving crimes since June 6, the news site Mediazona found.
The press service of the interior ministry in Krasnodar, where host city Sochi is located, told Mediazona that it was on orders to put out only “positive” information.
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“They think that they shouldn’t take the quarrel out of the hut and are hiding all these things,” Vladimir Vorontsov, a former officer who now heads an independent police union, said of the order. “They don’t want any negative or insider information to come out, especially since it’s the World Cup.”
The authorities have revealed almost no information about the security operation around the tournament, but tens of thousands of police have been mobilised along with security service personnel, national guardsmen and even traditional Cossack horse warriors.
For a test match last month at the new World Cup stadium in Rostov-on-Don, police simply shut down the entire southern bank of the Don River to vehicle traffic, making fans walk more than a mile on foot.
Already, Russia is one of the most-policed states in the world, employing about 900,000 law enforcement and security officers.
Prophylactic measures have verged on the illegal: Police have reportedly been forcing people previously convicted of extremism in mostly Muslim Dagestan to sign travel restrictions during the event.
“A key advantage of Russia is that it is a security state,” said analyst Mark Galeotti. “The security apparatus can operate far more freely.”
Russia has also reportedly deployed additional warships and aircraft to the Sea of Azov for fear of a Ukrainian “provocation” during the World Cup.
In Volgograd, where England will play Tunisia on Monday, police have installed 131 new surveillance cameras for the tournament and closed streets near the stadium. The city has sought to tighten security since suicide bombings killed 34 people here before the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
The Volgograd branch of the interior ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
The focus on the World Cup has stretched police so thin in at least one city response times have gotten slower. Officers have reportedly been working 14 hours a day and are on call for the rest.
“We understand that the leadership doesn’t want to fall face first into the mud, so they’re bringing lots of police to the the host cities, but other cities are suffering because of this,” Mr Vorontsov said, warning that crime could rise.
But even the most intensive security efforts can’t replicate the “ring of steel” that encircled Sochi for the Olympics, as the World Cup will be held in 11 host cities across a territory of almost 2,000 miles.
“With these big events, the Russians are pretty good at throwing a lot of resources at the traditional methodology, but in the age of the YouTube-radicalised lone wolf it’s always going to be difficult,” Mr Galeotti said. “At some point terrorism will get through.”
Besides terrorism, the authorities have cracked down on hooligans and Kremlin critics so that no unseemly protests or violence mar the tournament.
On Friday it emerged that a Krasnoyarsk woman faces five years in prison for allegedly kicking an officer at a May opposition protest.