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Image: Getty Images/P.Huguen

Fans, police clash in Lille; Russia reacts

June 15, 2016

French police have contained and arrested 36 mainly English fans in Lille as group rivals Russia lost to Slovakia. Russia, meanwhile, has complained to France's ambassador of police double standards.


French police clash with England fans overnight

England supporters on the streets of Lille, ready for Thursday's game against Wales in nearby Lens, turned rowdy on Wednesday after watching Russia's 2-0 defeat to Slovakia.

Some 36 people were arrested and 16 taken to hospital on Wednesday after French police clashed with English soccer, police in Lille said in a statement. Riot police charged groups of rowdy, chanting English soccer fans and used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse them on Wednesday night

Group B matches have already been a major flashpoint for French police. Fighting flared up before and after Russia's encounter with England - involving locals in Marseille, Russians and English supporters.

In response to the scenes within the stadium, Russia had already received a final warning from European football association UEFA, threatening expulsion in the event of more fan violence during matches. UEFA's powers to punish fan misbehavior stop at the stadium turnstiles, where the issue becomes a police matter.

As Slovakia sought to end Russia's Euro 2016 campaign on the pitch - as opposed to them being sent home - England supporters watched and drank, before matters began to escalate. DW's Jonathan Harding was on the scene:

At one point, chants at the French police officers turned to: "Where were you in Marseille?" This was a reference to what English authorities criticized as a lax police presence at the 1-1 draw against Russia, when hooligans set upon supporters immediately after the final whistle.

Russia cries foul

The images in Lille seemed likely to serve as grist to the mill for Russia's team and the Kremlin - coming shortly after Moscow's Foreign Ministry summoned France's ambassador to complain about perceived double standards in how police had handled violent supporters.

The ministry had taken umbrage with Tuesday's decision by prosecutors in Marseille to detain a bus load of Russian football fans for 48 hours, including far-right sympathizer Alexander Shprygin. Of those on board, 11 were soon released but another 43 were ordered to be held.

"The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the French Ambassador, Jean-Maurice Ripert," the Ministry said, warning that "further stoking of anti-Russian sentiments ... could significantly aggravate the atmosphere in Russian-French relations."

Those being held could face criminal charges or be expelled from the country. The Kremlin called the detentions unjustified.

Speaking to the Russian parliament, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: "It was an absolutely unacceptable incident when a bus with more than 40 Russian fans was stopped by police."

French police clash with England fans overnight

French police "demanded that they get off the bus for document and identification checks," Lavrov said.

Among those detained during Tuesday's bus stop was far-right sympathizer Alexander Shprygin, who heads the Russian football supporters association.

"We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that [the French] are trying to ignore the absolutely provocative actions of fans from other countries," Lavrov said, apparently referring to British fans.

"You probably saw the outrageous scenes on television of them trampling on the Russian flag," he said, "and screaming insults directed at the Russian leadership and leading Russian athletes."

msh, bik/mm (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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