Russia summons French envoy over Euro 2016 fan arrests

Russian fans (left) walk past police officer as they wander in downtown Lille, northern France, on June 15, 2016.
Russian fans (left) walk past police officer as they wander in downtown Lille, northern France, on June 15, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia on Wednesday (June 15) summoned France's ambassador to protest over the arrest of Russian supporters at the Euro 2016 football tournament which has been tarnished by hooligan unrest.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the detention of the supporters on a bus in southern France "absolutely unacceptabe." "The Russian foreign ministry summoned the French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert," the ministry said, warning that "further stoking of anti-Russian sentiments... could significantly aggravate the atmosphere in Russian-French relations."

French police swooped on a group of 43 Russian supporters near Marseille on Tuesday and took them into custody over clashes before and during Russia's match against England on Saturday.

Separately, Russian supporters were among 10 people arrested before the country's latest game in Lille on Wednesday.

"It was an absolutely unacceptable incident when a bus with more than 40 Russian fans was stopped by police," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

French police "demanded that they get off the bus for document and identification checks," Lavrov told parliament.

The minister said French authorities had failed to inform the Russian embassy or the consulate in Marseille before intercepting the bus.

The group included far-right sympathiser Alexander Shprygin, who heads the Russian football supporters association.

Lavrov said Russian diplomatic missions in France only learned of the incident from social media after Shprygin and other fans published pictures and updates about their detention.

French police released 11 of the 43 on Wednesday. French officials said the others could be charged or expelled from the country.

Football's European governing body Uefa have told Russia they will be disqualified from the tournament if there is any more crowd trouble in the stadium.

French police were on high alert for potential clashes between thousands of Russian and English fans in the northern city of Lille.

Russia played Slovakia in Lille on Wednesday, one day before England take on Wales in nearby Lens.

Three Russians and a Ukrainian were among 10 people arrested for violence and drunkness. A regional spokesman said the four could be expelled.

By mid-afternoon the atmosphere was boisterous but relatively calm in the city where beer was flowing and 4,000 police were on patrol.

Russian authorities have accused France of failing to curtail clashes between fans in Marseille and have stressed that England supporters were also to blame.

Lavrov conceded it was "unacceptable to behave like some of our citizens" but criticised the "provocative" behaviour of England fans.

"We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that (the French) are trying to ignore the absolutely provocative actions of fans from other countries," Lavrov said, apparently referring to England fans.

"You probably saw the outrageous scenes on television of them trampling on the Russian flag and screaming insults directed at the Russian leadership and leading Russian athletes," he said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he hoped the investigation into the clashes would treat all sides fairly.

The French government has made it clear it will take a tough line on all those found guilty of violence.

"All those who took part in the violence (in Marseille), in this street fighting, must be not only identified by sent home," spokesman Stephane Le Foll said.

In Marseille, prosecutors believe they have enough proof to charge some of the detained Russian fans with involvement in Saturday's violence.

"We have sufficiently accurate information that at least some of them took part in the unacceptable violence," top local official Adolphe Colrat said Six England fans have been jailed for taking part in the trouble.

French authorities said more than 70,000 Russian, Slovak, English and Welsh fans could head to Lille.

England fans gathering in bars in the city chanted foul-mouthed songs, but others said the atmosphere was good.

Yuril Shabanov, 14, from the Russian city of Perm, was enjoying the fan zone with his father and two friends who had flown in from Nice.

"I support the Russian team but not what happened in Marseille," he said of the events that led Uefa to place Russia under "suspended disqualification".

England fans said they were reassured by the presence of British police to assist their French colleagues.