It’s common for expats to perceive Russia as an unsafe place to live on account of its largely negative reputation in the Western media. In reality, the crime rate is quite low for such a large country and crimes against foreigners are not very common. The apartments and housing complexes are also known to have good security systems in place. However expats who are living and working in cities like Moscow should be aware that incidents of theft and other crimes do occur from time to time. The best way to guard against such incidents is to take the necessary precautions such as avoiding poorly lit streets and certain suburban areas at night, and taking care of belongings when visiting crowded areas like markets and while travelling on public transport.Here’s an overview of the crime and safety situation in Moscow, and some tips for expats on staying safe.
Petty crime tends to occur in Moscow and other cities especially in tourist areas and public transport hubs. Avoid carrying expensive items to these places and be mindful of your belongings. It is important to be wary of even women and groups of children who beg. Perpetrators may also attempt to rob those coming out of bars and pubs late at night. Inside such places too, it is advisable to insist on buying your own drinks and keeping them within sight. There have also been cases of robberies at ATMs and hence it’s best to use only those ATMs that in safe areas or within reputed banks. Since car robberies may also occur at times, valuables should not be left in plain sight inside the vehicle. Instances of violence in the major cities are not directed at foreigners and are usually associated with business or criminal activities. In recent years, there have been a few reports of passports being stolen from foreign nationals. Fake police officers harassing and stealing from tourists has also been reports and therefore always ask to see identification if you are stopped by a police official. It’s also advisable for women to avoid travelling alone at night.
Racially motivated crime
Russia does witness crimes against ethnic minorities such as Asians, Africans and Arabs. These crimes may take the form of verbal abuse and in rare cases, extortion and physical attacks. Such acts are mainly perpetrated by the extremist nationalist groups, which form a very small part of the Russian population.
Scams take place in a variety of ways such as through dating services and fraudulent bank transfers. Some scammers may also impersonate police officials. Avoid taking out your wallet or passport in public and if someone asks you to show your passport, first check his or her credentials.
Corruption remains a problem in most countries, including Russia. Foreigners may witness this first-hand during encounters with the police. Not all Russian police officers resort to corruption, but there have been instances where officials have intimidated people and asked for bribes. In such cases, it’s a good idea to take down the official’s name and badge number. You can also request to speak with a superior official.
Russia has been the victim of many terrorist attacks that have targeted government institutions, public transport, schools and hotels. Such incidents are usually associated with the ongoing unrest in the North Caucasus region. Expats should avoid travelling to these troubled regions, as even their home country embassies in Moscow may be unable to help due to the tense security situation.
2014 Crimean crisis
The Crimean conflict is a result of an international dispute between Russia and Ukraine regarding control over the Crimean Peninsula. The subsequent annexation by Russia has further fuelled tensions and unrest in the region. Flights in and out of Crimea may be disrupted. Some airlines have also cancelled their flight to this region. Buses and trains between Moscow and other cities, and Crimea are operational but services may be disrupted at any time. Foreign governments have issued travel advice to their nationals urging them to leave Crimea. It’s advisable to avoid discussing the Crimean situation while living in Russia and also to stay updated about the events there as it may impact the overall political situation in the country.