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UEFA gives Russia last chance over fan violence

UEFA told Russia on Tuesday it will be kicked out of the Euro 2016 if its fans cause more stadium trouble, while France arrested a group of Russian supporters.

Europe’s governing body found Russia responsible for the fans who charged into a section occupied by England supporters at the Russia-England game in Marseille on Saturday and for racist chanting and fireworks fired during the game.

It ordered the “suspended disqualification” of the team and fined the Russian Football Union 150,000 euros ($170,000).

Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Moscow accepted the ruling.

“We will comply with UEFA’s decision. What other position can there be?” he said, before later describing the punishment as “excessive”.

With concerns running high that supporters will clash again at Russia’s game against Slovakia in Lille on Wednesday, French authorities rounded up a group of more than 40 Russian supporters in a hotel near Marseille.

Marseille prosecutors believe they have enough proof to charge some of them over the worst violence at an international tournament since the 1998 World Cup.

“We have sufficiently accurate information that at least some of them took part in the unacceptable violence,” top local official Adolphe Colrat said.

Lille was on high alert as Russian and English football fans taunted each other on Tuesday as the northern French city and nearby Lens braced for an invasion of up to 65,000 supporters ahead of the latest high-risk matches.

French authorities expect between 40,000 and 50,000 England and Wales fans and 15,000 Russians to travel to the cities.


 ‘We hate the English’

The tension was evident in Lille as rival groups gathered, with a small group of Russian fans briefly throwing chairs and bottles at chanting England fans outside a bar.

One Russian supporter in Lille told AFP: “If the English are brave enough to come, we’ll crush them. We hate the English.”

But another Russian fan, Stanislav, said: “We are here for the game, not for the conflict.

“We met English people on the train today and we were very friendly with each other.”

Bars in Lille city centre were to shut at midnight on Tuesday and on the night of the game and the city will be “flooded with police” to prevent rival supporters from clashing, top local official Michel Lalande said.

Alexander Shprygin, a Russian far-right figure who is head of a Russian football supporters’ group, said he was part of the group of fans detained in Marseille.

Shprygin, an aide to nationalist politician Igor Lebedev, tweeted “this is a circus” as police surrounded a coach containing the fans who were heading to Lille. “We are the official group of Russian fans!” he protested.


Final warning
UEFA’s disciplinary commission warned Russia that it had to bring its fans under control or face expulsion from the championship.

“This disqualification is suspended until the end of the tournament,” UEFA said.

“Such suspension will be lifted if incidents of a similar nature (crowd disturbances) happen inside the stadium at any of the remaining matches of the Russian team during the tournament,” it added.

After the 1-1 draw in Marseille, Russian fans crossed security barriers inside the Stade Velodrome and threw punches at England fans.

French prosecutors have said 150 Russian supporters who were “extremely well-prepared” and “extremely violent” evaded arrest in Marseille.

UEFA had already warned Russia and England that it could disqualify them if there was more trouble. But only Russia was charged over the conduct of its fans.

FA chief Greg Dyke said security in the Marseille stadium on Saturday had been “unacceptable” and protested to UEFA that a distinction should be drawn between the two sets of fans as only Russia have been charged over their conduct.

England captain Wayne Rooney and coach Roy Hodgson have already made a video plea for fans to avoid putting their country’s participation in jeopardy.

British authorities have also sent extra police to France.

On Monday, 10 men — six Britons, three French and one Austrian — were found guilty of violence around the England-Russia match and given jail terms.

The violence has cast a cloud over the Euro, which French authorities fear could also be a target for jihadist attacks.

The murder Monday of two police officials near Paris by a known radical claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group has raised tensions in France.

In a Facebook video filmed shortly before he was shot dead by police, attacker Larossi Abballa, 25, called for Euro 2016 to be “turned into a graveyard”. The video has since been deleted.

With police stretched thin for the huge Euro security operation, riot officers also clashed on Tuesday with protesters in Paris demonstrating against controversial labour reforms.

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