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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
Petersburg cops told to learn English
Russian policeman
Officers may just express themselves with their batons

Russian police are not renowned for their etiquette or communication skills, but officers in St Petersburg may soon be able to hold their own when dealing with foreign guests.

About 8,000 police currently keeping order in the northern city have been told to learn English in time for celebrations of its 300th anniversary later in the month.

They have been issued with a special 255-page phrasebook, which they are meant to read and memorise in two weeks.

The book tells them, for instance, how to refuse in English to accept payment of fines on the spot - though visitors to Russia have not often heard police refusing any payment, even in Russian.

This phrasebook is huge - it is difficult to find anything here
Vyacheslav Garnin
police major

More than 40 foreign heads of state and government are due to attend the ceremonies, including US President George W Bush, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and others.

Correspondents say officers are concerned about the scale of the challenge confronting them.

"This phrasebook is huge," traffic police Major Vyacheslav Garnin told Russian TV. "It is difficult to find anything here.

St Peter and Paul fortress in St Petersburg
The city turns 300 this summer

"It is not a phrasebook, but rather a concise English text book."

The preface to the book says that each officer's individual abilities, memory and motivation will determine whether they can master it.

Police are supposed to learn expressions like "See you later" or "Give my best wishes to your wife".

Police spokesman Artem Dauer said that the book contained phrases in English written in Russian script to aid pronunciation.

But the TV reporter said many police were considering leaving the book at home and relying on their batons as a means to express themselves.

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