Football fans heading to this summer’s World Cup need to watch out for Russian spies, an Estonian intelligence chief has said.
Mikk Marran, who is director general of the country’s foreign intelligence service, warned fans that strangers who spoke to them in bars and pubs could turn out to be Russian agents targeting them for blackmail or information.
He warned foreign supporters to take care with phones and laptops at the tournament in Russia, or avoid bringing them at all, The Times reports.
The World Cup, which will take place in 11 Russian cities, kicks off on June 14.
Mr Marran said officials and businessmen visiting Russia for the competition could be targets because they might have access to privileged information about their countries.
The spy chief did not rule out that Russia might use ‘honeytrap’ spies to gather information.
He told fans: ‘They are going to be looking at who are coming, where they are staying, what they are doing, what are the possibilities, weaknesses.
‘It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go to Russia. Russia is a great country. But just to make people more aware of what might be happening around them when they are happily having a pint in Moscow or someplace else.’
A report from his intelligence agency said: ‘This year’s tournament is a gigantic PR project for Russia that is intended to send a clear signal to the international community that Russia has succeeded well despite sanctions and been able to break out of international isolation.
‘Russian security forces will also be keeping a closer eye on people visiting Russia during the tournament.
‘Major international events taking place in Russia – political and economic forums, scientific conferences, youth festivals and sports competitions – play an important role in intelligence collection.
‘This creates a favourable opportunity for Russian special services to find targets for human intelligence and collect information.’