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How to communicate with the capital’s police


Many foreigners arriving in Moscow for the first time note the large number of police on the streets, in the metro, and in places of leisure. There is no need to worry about this, but it is worth knowing a few rules about associating with the police.

It is always best to have your passport with you. Police have the right to approach you on the street and request that you show your documents. Even a law-abiding passer-by might, for example, look like a wanted criminal. So do not take the risk: carry your documents with you, because without them the police have the right to detain you for up to three days for verification of your identity.

Before asking for you to show your documents, a police officer should present himself, detailing his position, rank and surname and, if you request it, show his official identification and explain why you have been approached.

If you think the police officer is behaving inappropriately or asks you to pay a fine “on the spot without a receipt”, immediately turn on an audio recorder and promise to contact the Service for Personal Safety. This is the service that maintains the integrity of the police force and its telephone number can be found on the website of Moscow’s Main Department of Internal Affairs. Furthermore, by telephoning 02 from any connection you can be connected to the expert you need.

Foreign citizens staying on Russian territory must be registered at their place of residence and a police officer is perfectly entitled to demand the relevant document from you. Remember, however, that citizens of foreign states have the right to stay in Moscow without registration for up to seven days. In this case, it is sufficient to show that a week has not lapsed since your arrival by showing a train or plane ticket, or the stamp made in your passport at the border.

If you are driving and a member of the Traffic Police orders you to stop – do so. Remember however, that you should not stop in a range of prohibitory signs or cross the carriageway in order to reach an inspector standing on the other side of the road. Police officers will undoubtedly not fail to notice this offence.

If you have not broken any traffic rules, then the meeting with the inspector will probably not last long. He will check your driving licence, the car documents, the vehicle inspection certificate, and the Compulsory Third Party Liability Insurance policy or ОСАГО (the latter two documents are included in a compulsory package that you should be given by any car rental firm). If your documents are in order you will be wished a pleasant journey and you can continue on your way.

If the Traffic Police inspector thinks that you have been driving the car improperly, you may be asked to be examined for driving under the influence of alcohol. First, you will be asked to “breath into the tube” or, in official terms, to be tested with a breathalyser. If you are sober but the equipment shows the opposite, immediately ask for a professional medical examination in a specialised medical facility. An analysis carried out by medical professionals will serve in court as comprehensive evidence of your sobriety at the wheel, as it is more accurate than the results of a portable breathalyser.