Russian football authorities need to do more to combat racism and at the moment do not fully understand what it means, a United Nations official said on 23 July.
Racism in the 2018 World Cup host nation was thrown back into the spotlight on Wednesday when the Russian Football Union (RFU) rejected allegations that Ufa midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong was racially abused by Spartak Moscow supporters.
The Ghanian said he was subjected to monkey chants during a Russian Premier League season match last Friday, where he was sent off after he raised a finger to the crowd in response. He was subsequently suspended for two Premier League matches.
If these kinds of incidents continue happening then the system, the national system should be reinforced, UN official Yuri Boychenko told a news conference on 23 July. There should be more efforts by the minister of sport and by the union (Russian Football Union) in this field. This is absolutely clear.
More than 200 acts of racism were committed by Russian fans between 2012 and 2014 according to a recent report by the Sova Center, a Moscow-based racism-monitoring group.
Piara Powar, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe, said last year that he believed an African team could walk off the pitch if they suffered abuse during a game at the World Cup.
When it happens in society, sanctions are stronger and we always appeal that the same should be [the case] when it happens during football games or any other sport event, added Boychenko, who heads the anti-discrimination section at the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.
As you know, there was a report published by Fare Network prepared by one of the Russian organisations monitoring centres, Sova, which speaks about 200 incidents which happened during two football seasons. Theyre different kinds of incidents.
I would not qualify them all as racist incidents. Many of them are incidents of radical nationalism or even neo-Nazi incidents. What is important is the reaction. The reaction of the authorities should be stronger, clearly.
During the news conference itself, Boychenko said he believed the authorities were beginning to recognise there was an issue.
In a way you are right that first comes recognition, he said. That authorities here should recognise that there is a problem and I believe that the recognition is coming.
The Ghana Football Association (GFA) has already reacted angrily to the Frimpong incident, saying the player had been subjected to vile abuse and that it beats our imagination that the player was penalised.
Fifa announced in May that a new system of match observers monitoring incidents of racism and discrimination at 2018 World Cup qualifiers, however Russian domestic matches do not fall under the jurisdiction.