Football fans detained over derogatory Putin chant

MINSK (AFP) - Authorities in Belarus have detained and punished dozens of Ukrainian and Belarussian football fans for singing a chant insulting Russian President Vladimir Putin at an international match.

Police arrested some 40 supporters from both sides after they joined in a chant of "Putin is a prick" at a qualifying game for Euro 2016 between Belarus and Ukraine at the national Borisov Arena stadium outside the capital Minsk on Thursday.

The incident came ahead of Putin's scheduled arrival in the Belarussian capital on Friday for a meeting of leaders from the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independence States.

A court ordered a dozen of the Ukrainian fans jailed on hooliganism charges for five to 10 days, while a dozen Belarussian supporters were fined, officials said.

Ukraine's consulate in Minsk said it would formally protest to the Belarussian foreign ministry over the detentions.

The anti-Putin chant has become a rallying cry for Ukrainians angered by Russian interference in their ex-Soviet state this year, since the ousting of a Kremlin-backed president and Kiev's embrace of the West.

Initially chanted by football fans in stadiums in Ukraine, it has since gained wider popularity - and even sparked a diplomatic spat when it was repeated by Ukraine's then-acting foreign minister in June.

Moscow-allied Minsk has watched the crisis uneasily, with fighting in eastern Ukraine triggering an explosion of patriotism in ex-Soviet Belarus.

Ukraine ended up winning the qualifying game 2 to 0, moving them up to third place in group C.