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

arrests.

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

hand.

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.