Thu, Jun 14, 2012 - Page 20 News List

EURO 2012: Tensions at Euro boil over in street fights in Warsaw

Reuters and AP, WARSAW

Polish soccer fans beat a Russian soccer fan during clashes on Tuesday in Warsaw, Poland.

Photo: AFP

A thrilling 1-1 draw between old adversaries Poland and Russia was marred by the worst fan violence of the Euro 2012 tournament so far on Tuesday, with more than 180 hooligans detained after running street battles in Warsaw.

At least 24 people were injured, officials said yesterday.

Edyta Galazkowska, a spokeswoman for the Warsaw ambulance service, said that 14 Russians, one German, one US citizen and one Pakistani were among the injured. The nationality of seven others was being established. None was in life-threatening condition, she said.

About 50 people were take to hospitals, 10 of them still there early yesterday, according to the Warsaw Province office.

Polish Minister of the Interior Jacek Cichocki said that 156 Poles and 24 Russians have been detained, along with one Hungarian and one Spanish man. One Russian was detained on suspicion he threw a firecracker onto the field during the game.

Cichocki said the Russians would go through summary court trials aimed at expelling them from Poland and lifting their EU visas, and the detained Poles should “not sleep soundly,” because they would face trial and harsh punishment as well.

Police used water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets on Tuesday to disperse fights between fans of the rival teams and also to repel attacks by Polish fans against officers in the Polish capital. The fights took place in various places in downtown Warsaw. However, none were at the National Stadium or in the downtown fan zone, where about 75,000 fans watched the match on giant TV screens.

Riot police were pelted with missiles including rocks, flares and bottles, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at fans in response after bloody fighting broke out on the bridge across the Vistula River leading to the stadium.

About 20,000 Russian fans were in Warsaw for the Group A clash, held on Russia’s Independence Day. Before kickoff, the almost 10,000 Russian fans in the stadium unfurled a giant flag of a sword-wielding warrior over the legend: “This is Russia,” prompting Polish fans in the 50,000-seat stadium to jeer the Russian national anthem.

After the match, Poles draped in the national red and white colors flooded onto the streets and into bars across the country ready for a party, but events off the pitch threatened to overshadow it.

Russian fans had been allowed by the Polish authorities to march to the National Stadium to watch their team play in a fixture weighed down with historical significance.

Polish Minister of Sport Joanna Mucha on Monday played down outrage in Warsaw about the march being allowed.

“It is absolutely normal for the fans supporting the teams just to have a march during the tournament, so this is an absolutely normal situation,” she said.

Russian fan leaders had promised the march would be peaceful and said it had been organized to celebrate “the festival of football” on Russia Day.

However, when the supporters reached the Poniatowskigo Bridge, sporadic fighting broke out.

Riot police were seen dragging people off as Polish fans chanted: “Russia whores, Russia whores” and “Hit the red trash with a hammer, with a sickle.”

The violence escalated among groups of young men, some wearing masks, and riot police had to drag supporters away. Witnesses saw one man hit on the head by an iron bar hurled through the air.

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