Polish police on high alert for hooligan violence
Dozens of Polish police wearing full riot gear kept a close
watch on Russian soccer fans heading to their country’s European
Championship game against Greece on Saturday.
Around 20,000 Russians were expected to attend the match in
Warsaw, and authorities have been worried about the potential for
more trouble after disturbances between Polish and Russian
hooligans on Tuesday led to a few dozen injuries and more than 200
Before Saturday’s match, UEFA President Michel Platini called on
fans to behave with ”dignity and respect,” and at Wroclaw where
Poland was playing the Czech Republic at the same time.
”I appeal therefore to all fans that are going to Warsaw or
Wroclaw tonight as we prepare for the deciding matches in Group A
to conduct themselves with dignity and respect, and to behave
themselves this evening at the stadiums and in the cities,”
Platini said in a statement issued by UEFA.
As the game in Warsaw approached, thousands of Russians poured
across a bridge to the National Stadium. There were no immediate
reports of violence, and the atmosphere appeared to be calm and
good-natured. Noisy groups of fans, some wrapped in Russian flags,
chanted ”We have come to win” and ”Russia can only win.” One
Russian had a photo taken with a riot officer and shook his
Russian fans also waved to Polish supporters going in the
opposite direction to a fan zone in downtown Warsaw, in contrast to
tensions and scattered outbreaks of violence Tuesday. Earlier
Saturday, reports from border crossings said fewer Russian fans
were coming than expected and that the mood was friendly.
Tuesday’s fighting came as thousands of Russians marched over
the bridge to the stadium for the highly charged Poland-Russia game
that later ended in a 1-1 tie. It came on the Russia Day holiday
and the Russians marched in a group, waving flags and nationalist
symbols. The mass expression of Russian patriotism in Warsaw’s
capital was provocative to some Poles, who still deeply resent
Moscow’s imposition of communism here during the Cold War.
One of the worst cases of violence involved police firing rubber
bullets and tear gas at young Polish men who attacked them with
stones and bottles. Another scuffle near the stadium was apparently
started by Russians.