MOSCOW, July 18 (R-Sport/RIA Novosti) – American singing legend Cher, who recently performed at the opening of a new stadium for a football club in Russia’s restive south, asked for two extra bulletproof vests due to security concerns, a club official said in a Russian TV interview broadcast Thursday.
Local football club Anzhi Makhachkala’s board chairman Konstantin Remchukov said that the star's fears had been prompted by US news coverage of the Russian republic of Dagestan, where the authorities are fighting an Islamist-led insurgency.
“Cher was supposed to be coming for the Anzhi-Arena opening,” Remchukov told the Rossiya 2 TV network. “I know her and her lawyer personally. A few days before, I got a load of sms messages – ‘what’s going on there?’”
“CNN was showing news about a string of terror attacks in the region,” Remchukov explained.
“They asked ‘Could we have a couple of extra bulletproof vests? Are there metal detectors for the fans entering the stadium? Has this event been heavily promoted?’” Remchukov said, adding that they were worried that a well-attended event could become a prime target for terrorist attacks.
After reassuring them, Remchukov said he got a phone call from the club’s owner, fertilizer tycoon Suleiman Kerimov, asking him to accompany Cher from the airport for the June 1 event.
Anzhi Makhachkala won third place in the Russian league last season, but last year football’s governing body UEFA banned teams from playing in the North Caucasus, including in Dagestan, citing security concerns.
Cher, whose father’s family has roots in Armenia, south of the Caucasus mountain range, rose to fame in the 1960s as part of popular music duo Sonny and Cher, her official site says.
With over 40 years in show-business, the singer and actress has an avidly loyal fan base across the globe, and has also been dubbed a “gay icon” by US media.