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Putin weighs into row over Euro 2016 fan violence

Published 17/06/2016

England supporters celebrate in a fountain in Lille after their Euro 2016 victory over Wales
England supporters celebrate in a fountain in Lille after their Euro 2016 victory over Wales

Russian president Vladimir Putin has weighed into the controversy over fan violence during Euro 2016, declaring: "I don't know how 200 Russian fans could fight several thousand of the British."

French prosecutors blamed a hardcore of "extremely well-trained" and "hyper violent" Russian fans for much of the violence that erupted in Marseille last weekend.

Tournament organiser Uefa also threatened to kick Russia out of the tournament if any more trouble erupts inside grounds, after a group of Russian fans charged at England supporters in the Stade Velodrome after last Saturday's 1-1 draw.

Commenting on the trouble, Mr Putin said: "At the moment we see that there are many problems in sports. The European football cup is taking place at the moment, but I believe that people are paying more attention to the fan fights.

"And I regret saying this. I regret seeing that people pay such importance to fan fights. I guess the responsibility for such acts should be as personalised as possible.

"And the way we treat the violators has to be the same. They all have to be equally treated.

"Do you know when the football cup started there was a fight of Russian fans with the British ones, but I don't know how 200 Russian fans could fight several thousand of the British."

Mr Putin made the comments at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in a wide-ranging discussion about politics and sport, including allegations that Russia operated a state-sponsored doping programme, in front of an assembly hall packed with delegates.

The Euros in France have been blighted by violence in scenes reminiscent of the worst days of football hooliganism in the 1980s.

Body-cam footage uploaded online shows Russian ultras ambushing and attacking English fans in the streets.

English fans have been engaged in running battles with French police, who have used tear gas and pepper spray against them.

In an apparent swipe at Uefa - which has threatened to boot out both Russia and England from the tournament but has only issued Russia with a suspended disqualification - Mr Putin insisted all sports teams who violate the rules need to be treated equally.

He said: "The law enforcement agencies have to treat all the violators in the same way, this is our position. We are going to work in this way in our fighting against stimulants and dopers, and we are going to work with fans' associations.

"And I believe there are many sensible people among the fans who realise that any violations cannot express their support for the team they love - any violations only jeopardise the teams they support.

"But I realise that we still have a lot to do in this area. But let me emphasise that we have never supported any violations in sport, we have never supported it at the state level, and we will never support this.

"We will never support any dopers or any other violations in this area, and we are going to co-operate with all the international organisations in this regard."

There was more trouble involving English and Russian fans in Lille on Wednesday night after Russia's 2-1 defeat to Slovakia in the northern French city.

And 17 people were arrested in Lille on Thursday as England fans celebrated their first win of the tournament, over Wales, in nearby Lens.

Meanwhile, six football fans suspected of plotting trouble at Euro 2016 have been stopped from travelling by British police acting as spotters at ports.

Kent Police said specialist officers have screened more than 4,000 passengers. Four were issued with court orders under Section 21A of the Football Spectators Act on Wednesday and a fifth on Thursday.

Hearings at Folkestone Magistrates' Court were adjourned into four of the men - a 24-year-old from Southampton, one aged 22 from Middlesbrough, one aged 27 from Stockport and a 26-year-old from Shropshire. All were ordered to surrender their passports until after the championship final on July 10, a police spokesman said.

The fifth man, a 48-year-old from Darlington, failed to appear at court and he was issued with a three-year banning order in his absence.

Meanwhile, a sixth man, aged 25, from Shepshed, Leicestershire, also appeared in court after being arrested at the Port of Dover on suspicion of breaching his bail conditions. His case was adjourned until after Euro 2016.

British travellers using Dover have been warned that French officials are refusing to allow vehicles carrying alcohol to cross its borders.

Extra security checks by France to prevent trouble at the tournament have also led to some delays for cross-Channel passengers.

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