Stopped by the police in Russia? Here’s what to do

Russian police officers

Russian police officers

Russian police can be pretty intimidating – especially if you don’t speak the language – so Russia Beyond is on hand to help foreigners navigate any potential run ins with the law.

Why would they stop me?

Russian law allows policemen to stop anyone and everyone to check their documents to see if everything is in order. If you don’t look Slavic we’re afraid you’re more likely to be collared: these people can be targeted by law enforcers suspicious their visas might not be valid. If you’re carrying a bag on the metro, be prepared to have it examined on an x-ray machine to make sure you’re not a bomb-laden terrorist.

What if I don't have my ID with me?

If you don't have any documents, a policeman can detain you for up to three hours to establish your identity. So we strongly recommend always carrying at least a copy of your ID and visa with you.

If a policeman suspects your documents are bogus, he can frogmarch you to the closest police station to check your identity on their database.

How should I behave if they stop me?

First of all, don’t panic. Be respectful and polite. If you’ve done nothing wrong you don’t have anything to worry about. Don’t raise your voice or run away. The police can detain you for 15 days for resisting.

The policeman should show their ID and say his/her name, rank, and reasons why they’ve stopped you.

What are my rights?

If a policeman doesn’t do the above, you can ask them to – and even write down their details and take a photo of their ID, but don’t touch it with your hands.

As a citizen of a foreign state, you have the right to ask for a translator, a lawyer, and for a phone call to a friend or relative.

You can also refuse signing any documents you don’t understand or don’t agree with.

If you think the police are doing something unlawful towards you, you can call 112 and explain. Take note: Only an official policeman has the right to stop you. Private security staff, volunteer guards, Cossacks, or anyone else (even if they have a uniform similar to the police) are not allowed to do this.

If the police detain you, they have to report to the embassy or consulate of your state.

When should I be worried?

  • Obviously, if you’re caught with drugs or a gun (without a license) you’ll be in serious trouble.
  • If you have broken the rules for staying in Russia (if your visa is expired).
  • If you don’t have any documents proving you have the right to stay in Russia (ID, migration card, or registration).
  • If you are working illegally.
  • If you are drunk, the police can apprehend you. Don’t ride public transport half-cut, it’s always better to take a taxi if you have booze in your system.

Where can I find more information?

First of all, read your country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs advice. It’s also a good idea to have the phone number of your nation’s embassy in Russia handy.

Please read Russia’s Federal Law “On Police” in English to know your – and the police’s – rights.

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