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Soccer body takes tough line on Russia over Euro 2012 fans

By the CNN Wire Staff
June 13, 2012 -- Updated 1833 GMT (0233 HKT)
Polish police have detained 184 people following Euro 2012 violence in Warsaw.
Polish police have detained 184 people following Euro 2012 violence in Warsaw.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Poland's sports minister says the violence appalls her, but it won't spoil the event
  • UEFA imposes a suspended penalty on Russia over disorder by its fans Friday
  • More than 150 Poles and more than 20 Russians are among 184 people detained by police
  • Poland is co-hosting the Euro 2012 soccer tournament with Ukraine

Warsaw, Poland (CNN) -- European football's governing body took a tough line against soccer-related disorder Wednesday, as it imposed a penalty on Russia for "improper conduct" by its fans at the Euro 2012 tournament.

The ruling by UEFA relates to the opening game of the tournament in Wroclaw, Poland, on Friday.

Its officials are still considering what action to take over allegations of racist abuse by Russian fans at the same game, and violence before and after a Euro 2012 game in Warsaw on Tuesday.

Police detained 184 people after clashes broke out in the Polish capital before and after the Poland-Russia game, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

Interior Minister Jacek Cichocki told reporters that more arrests could come. "Police officers continue to watch recordings from CCTV and police cameras to identify other hooligans who disturbed public order," he said.

Polish and Russian football fans clash in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday ahead of the match between Poland and Russia at the Euro 2012 championships. Polish and Russian football fans clash in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday ahead of the match between Poland and Russia at the Euro 2012 championships.
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The suspended six-point deduction imposed on Russia by UEFA will apply to the qualifying campaign for the Euro 2016 tournament, rather than the current one.

Russia's national football body was also fined 120,000 euros ($150,000), UEFA said. It has three days to appeal the decision.

The penalty is in response to "crowd disturbances, the setting off and throwing of fireworks and the display of illicit banners," UEFA said.

"The ruling does not take into account the alleged racist abuse of Czech defender Theodor Gebre Selassie by Russia fans during the same game or incidents of crowd violence before the game against Poland on Monday. Both incidents are currently being investigated by UEFA and could result in further penalties being handed out."

Russian football expert James Appell told CNN the penalty showed UEFA was taking Russian fans' behavior "very, very seriously."

UEFA earlier condemned what it called "isolated incidents" before and after Tuesday's game in Warsaw "when some groups of known troublemakers pelted the police with missiles and attacked fans irrespective of the team they were supporting."

The body said its focus was to ensure that genuine football fans were able to enjoy the games peacefully, while isolating the handful who wanted to cause trouble. It is determined that the "overwhelmingly peaceful and festive atmosphere" that has so far prevailed will continue through the final on July 1, it said Wednesday.

Cichocki said Tuesday's violence had been the biggest public order challenge so far of the tournament -- which Poland is co-hosting with Ukraine -- but he praised police efforts.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk dismissed those who tried to disrupt the match as "fools," according to public broadcaster Polish Radio's press agency.

Law enforcement officials will be ruthless in suppressing the kind of "limited" trouble seen so far, he is quoted as saying.

Joanna Mucha, Poland's sports minister, told reporters she was appalled by the violence in Warsaw.

"I feel ashamed for those who came not to enjoy sport, but to cause trouble," she said. "They are hooligans, they aren't even fans -- certainly not fans wanting to support Poland. They will face charges and we will not let them ruin this celebration for us."

Russian supporters had organized a march through Warsaw before the match Tuesday evening to mark Russia's June 12 national day.

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The disorder broke out as about 5,000 Russian fans reached Warsaw's Poniatowski Bridge, on their way to the National Stadium, the Interior Ministry said in a statement, with "hooligans" from both sides seeking to start a fight.

More than 5,600 police officers were on duty in Warsaw, and riot police took "decisive" action to stop the violence from escalating, it said. Ten police officers were injured in the violence and received medical treatment.

The 184 suspects detained include more than 150 Poles, more than 20 Russians, a Hungarian, a Spaniard and a citizen of Algeria, the statement said. Some of those arrested had dangerous objects with them, including brass knuckles and clubs, as well as mouth guards.

Those responsible for violence can expect swift justice, the Interior Ministry statement said.

"The hooligans will be sentenced by the end of the week. In the case of foreigners involved in the incidents, speeded-up penal proceedings will be instituted," it said.

Those from outside the European Union's Schengen passport-free area will be deported and will receive a ban on entry to the European Union, the statement said. Their visas will also be withdrawn.

Polish journalist Michal Pol, who was there when the clashes on the bridge broke out, told CNN that the Russian supporters had been moving peacefully toward the stadium when "very aggressive Polish hooligans" provoked them.

Then, out of the middle of the Russian fans, came a number of "hooded and very well trained young guys who knew exactly who they wanted to fight" among the Poles, he said.

Russian media focused on the role of Polish fans and police in their reports Wednesday.

A headline on state news agency Itar-Tass reads, "Russian Football Union hopes Polish police will defend guests."

The president of the Russian Football Union, Sergei Fursenko, is quoted as saying that "well-trained groups attacked the Russian fans," who he says were behaving perfectly correctly and should have been protected by Polish authorities.

However, Appell, the football analyst, said Russia has a poor track record when it comes to soccer-related violence.

Questions should be asked about why 5,000 of its fans were allowed to march through Warsaw in what could be considered a provocative act, given the long and troubled history between Russia and Poland, he said.

However, when Russia hosts the 2018 World Cup, it is likely to organize it to a "micro level," he said, in order to avoid similar issues with fan violence.

Russian state-run broadcaster RT reported that Polish police fired warning shots and used water cannons and tear gas as they sought to break up the clashes in Warsaw.

Mikolaj Piotrowski, director of communications for Poland 2012, told CNN he felt "anger and shame" that a small group of "hooligans" were trying to spoil the tournament for Poland's 37 million citizens and their visitors.

"I was really, really angry but we must be aware of the scale -- almost 200 persons were taken under custody by Polish police and at the same time, almost 200,000 people were having fun here in Warsaw," he said.

He defended the policing of the game, saying officers did a good job in closing down the disorder when it kicked off, and said Poland would continue its "zero tolerance" policy on fan violence through Euro 2012 and beyond.

Everyone is determined there will be no repeat of the violence seen Tuesday, he said.

Authorities stress that the vast majority of football fans in Ukraine and Poland have supported their sides peacefully.

In the course of Tuesday, about 150,000 fans visited the Warsaw "fan zone," an area away from the stadium where games are shown on big screens for those without tickets, Poland's Interior Ministry said.

Tens of thousands of more fans watched the Greece-Czech Republic game, played in Wroclaw, from that city's stadium and fan zone, it said.

Altogether, more than a million supporters have flocked to stadiums and fan zones in Poland since Euro 2012 kicked off Friday, it said.

However, Russian officials had already called for better behavior from the country's supporters after the unrest during Friday's opening 4-1 win against the Czech Republic team.

"Those who choose the sports arena for the declaration of their personal political and other positions have no place in the stands," read a statement on the Russian Football Union's website Monday.

"The Russian Football Union and the national team of Russia kindly request all the fans of these provocative actions to confront bullies and to cooperate fully with the organizers of the match in matters of security.

"We appeal to all fans who are in Poland. Remember that you represent your country. Respect yourself, your home and your team."

CNN's Claudia Rebaza, Harry Reekie, Laura Smith-Spark, Stephanie Halasz and Pedro Pinto contributed to this report.

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