Russia accuses France of ‘discrimination’ as England fans clash with police

By on June 16, 2016

Footballing rivalry and fan violence spilled into global politics as Moscow summoned the French ambassador over detentions of Russians at Euro 2016 and warned an “anti-Russian” mood could even damage relations between Russia and France.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused other countries’ football fans of “absolutely provocative actions” at the tournament, such as trampling on the Russian flag.

The claim came as police used pepper spray and tear gas to disperse English fans in the northern French city of Lille, where England will play Wales tonight.

Authorities had flooded the city with police ahead of the England match and Russia’s match against Slovakia, which the Russians lost 2-1, in nearby Lens.

Four Russian fans were arrested in Lille and were due to be deported.

“Two of the Russians were arrested yesterday evening during a fight in Lille and two after being found drunk in a car with weapons,” a spokesperson at the Lille prefecture said. The weapons were wooden sticks, a police source said.

“Today, the measure is very simple: flood the public space with police so that there is no room for any form of hooliganism,” Sports Minister Patrick Kanner said.
Russia summons French ambassador over ‘discrimination’

In Moscow, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it had summoned French ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert on Wednesday.

The French envoy was notified about “discrimination” towards Russian citizens, it said, adding that “further fanning of anti-Russian sentiments” could damage relations between France and Russia.

The ambassador replied that arrests had been carried out “absolutely according to the law, in full transparency vis-a-vis the Russian authorities”, the embassy said on its website.

“Fans from a number of countries took part in unacceptable violence in Marseille,” the ambassador said during the meeting.

“The French government remained determined, together with UEFA, to stop troublemakers from ruining the party that is the Euro.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said later: “Whatever their nationality, Russian, French, British or German, visitors are coming to France to celebrate football.

“That stands for Russians and British citizens and the French justice deals with them in the same manner.”

Both Russia and England have been threatened with expulsion from the competition after fans clashed for three days in Marseille on the weekend, drawing volleys of tear gas from riot police.

“We cannot close our eyes to the absolutely provocative actions by supporters from other countries,” Mr Lavrov told parliament.

“You have probably seen the outrageous images on TV when the Russian flag is getting stamped on and when insults are being screamed about the Russian leadership and about leading Russian sports people.”

President Vladimir Putin and security officials have discussed what lessons Russia can learn from the Euro 2016 for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the RIA news agency quoted the Kremlin as saying.

France is desperate to avoid a repeat of the violence that marred the England-Russia match in Marseille on Saturday, when dozens of Russian and English fans were arrested.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said he did “not have any certainty that disorder involving Russian fans will not be repeated,” and blamed England fans for provoking the trouble.

Mr Mutko called UEFA’s decision to fine his side and give it an official warning over violence inside the stadium in Marseille “excessive”.

In Reykjavik, the mood was brighter. Icelanders draped in blue and red celebrated their tiny country’s 1-1 draw against Portugal on Tuesday in the tournament. Some invoking the Norse god Thor, they spilled into the streets to chant “Afram (Go) Iceland!”

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