The simmering diplomatic row between Russia and the UK is threatening to prevent thousands of Chelsea and Manchester United fans travelling to Moscow for the first all-English Champions League final as negotiations over the visa requirements descended into acrimony yesterday.
Russia\’s embassy in London promised to process visa applications for the expected 50,000 fans "as quickly as possible", but also accused Britain of imposing an unjust visa regime on Russians travelling to the UK in response to the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko.
Chelsea booked their place in the final last night after a 4-3 aggregate win over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. The London club\’s fans now join the struggle to find flights and hotels, with remaining flights to Moscow for the May 21 match costing more than £1,500, and only two hotels in the city known to have beds available.
While no final decision has been taken, it is understood that a plan to offer all fans travelling to the match visa exemptions is now off the table, although an exception may be made for those on official charter flights. Russia is also considering waiving the usual requirement if fans produce a letter of invitation and a hotel booking.
It is going to be the most glorious clusterfuck.
You simply will not be able to get a Russian bureaucracy to react or change its ways in the time available. Either they drop visa requirements altogether for the week or it will be absolute chaos.