My run-in with the law began with a trip to the Kremlin at night. After seeing the usual tourist sights and taking a photo, my tour guide – a friend I had met online a few years prior –took me for a walk through Alexander Garden.
Located along the wall of the Kremlin, the gardens contain the Eternal Flame and Tomb of the Unknown Solider. These gardens have been guarded by the Kremlin Regiment since federal law decreed it in 1997.
As we were leaving the gardens after about 30 minutes, we were approached by uniformed police. As I stuck out like a sore thumb, my friend explained that he was my tour guide and that I was a friend visiting from Australia.
When asked to produce my passport for identity purposes, I was not able to. This is because the Russian Ministry requires all new entrants to the country to have their passport collected by their hotel for identification purposes, with the passport returned to the person the following day.
After handing over my hotel details to the policemen, they went away to use a phone to verify my details. This is when my friend gave me the low-down on the situation. “We will need to give these guards a bribe, otherwise they are likely to take us to the police station. I’ve seen it happen”.
While I had committed no crime and was legally in the country, I didn’t feel like spending my evening in a police station; and neither did my friend. I emptied my wallet of $157 in roubles and gave it to my friend, who shared a ‘handshake’ with one of the policemen before we were on our way again.
I promptly picked up my passport from the front desk at my hotel the next morning and told them of my incident, which as expected, did not surprise them one bit.