Euro 2012 - 183 arrests, more planned after violence in Poland
Tue, 12 Jun 21:28:00 2012
Police in Warsaw have made over 183 arrests relating to clashes between Poland and Russia fans and expect to add to that number as investigations continue into the events before their Euro 2012 match.
Riot police fired teargas and rubber bullets at Polish and Russian football fans who fought bloody battles near the Warsaw stadium, bringing the rocky relationship between the two to the forefront hours before the game.
Groups of young men, some of them masked, pelted Polish officers with rocks, bottles and flares. Television footage showed one man lying motionless on the ground, but Poland's Interior Ministry denied media reports that one person died.
A statement, released via www.policja.pl, read: "There are more than 183 hooligans caught by the police because of disorders in Warsaw - firstly during the march to National Stadion, secondly in the Fanzone in Plac Defilad Square.
"Among the kept persons there are fans of both teams - Russian and Polish. The police operation is still lasting. The police officers are checking the surveillance system, police cameras and still (plan to) identify the hooligans who took part in the disorders. Further arrests are planned."
The number of related injuries is reported to have subsequently risen to 15.
Fearing further violence, police asked the 9,850 Russian supporters who watched their team tie Poland 1-1 to remain at the Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw for 20 minutes to better protect them when they exited the venue.
But there were still some scuffles after the match as fans returned into the city centre from the stadium, but they were limited in extent and not nearly as violent as before the match.
Authorities had been bracing for a confrontation at the game between the neighbouring countries, whose relations have been poisoned by centuries of conflict and the Soviet domination of Poland for more than four decades after World War Two.
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".
Some Poles displayed a banner saying: "Polish President murdered in Russia," referring to a plane crash in Russia two years ago that killed Poland's president and 95 others.
At least 100 people were arrested and 10 people, mostly Poles, needed medical treatment, though none of the injuries were life threatening, said Polish police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski. Officers used water cannon, teargas and rubber bullets, he added.
Violence erupted as thousands of Russian fans, flanked by riot police, crossed the Vistula river on the way to the stadium.
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Groups of fans began to provoke each other with insults then small groups started to scuffle. Witnesses saw one man hit on the head by an iron bar thrown through the air.
"You could see on both the Polish and the Russian sides that it was organised groups of hooligans, quite small groups," said Polish fan Maciej Kowalski.
A film on YouTube showed a Polish fan lying unconscious on the Poniatowskigo bridge surrounded by police and reporters.
Later, hooligans started throwing stones and firecrackers at the police near the centre of Warsaw where more than 75,000 gathered to watch the match on video screens. More people were arrested.
Poland's PAP state news agency said an advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin was travelling to Warsaw after the clashes.
"We need to calm the situation," PAP quoted Mikhail Fedotov, Putin's advisor for civil society and human rights, telling Echo of Moscow radio. Fedotov could not immediately be contacted.
The Russian Football Association is already facing punishment by UEFA after its fans threw fireworks and displayed banners during Russia's opening match against the Czech Republic in Wroclaw last Friday.PA Sport / Reuters