Poland braces for more soccer hooligan violence
Poland is braced for more soccer hooligan violence this weekend
between Polish and Russian fans at the European Championship, with
the justice minister warning that there’s no shortage of
”cretins” willing to do battle on both sides.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk warned that police were prepared to
respond harshly to any violence.
”I hope we will not have to use force, but we will use it
ruthlessly if necessary,” Tusk said in an interview Friday on
He said Russian President Vladimir Putin warned him that some
Russians could try to get revenge for attacks against them Tuesday
and that Russian authorities were also doing what they could do to
control their hooligans.
The Russia soccer federation has appealed to its fans to show
restraint and follow the UEFA rules of conduct.
The concerns center around a Russia-Greece match in Warsaw on
Saturday night, when more than 20,000 Russians are expected to be
in Warsaw. The fears are that some of them could end up in street
brawls with Poles.
Polish and Russian fans clashed Tuesday on the streets of Warsaw
when their countries played. The game, one burdened by a difficult
history between the two nations, ended in a 1-1 draw. In at least
one case Polish hooligans attacked Russians, who fought back. The
men kicked and beat each other and flares went off in their
The fighting came as thousands of Russians marched to the
stadium in a group, waving flags and nationalist symbols – viewed
as a provocation by some Poles. One scuffle near the stadium was
apparently started by Russians.
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.
More than 200 people have since been arrested, Warsaw police
spokesman Maciej Karczynski said Friday. Police had initially
arrested 184 people, most of them Poles, but have caught more after
studying security camera footage.
In other misbehavior, Russian fans attacked stadium stewards at
their team’s first Euro 2012 match, on June 8 in Wroclaw. That
prompted UEFA to fine the Russian soccer federation (euro) 120,000
More than 20,000 Russians have tickets for Saturday’s final
group game with Greece in Warsaw, officials said. Another 3,000
Russians are expected to watch the game in public spaces, but no
march is planned this time.
”We are aware that there is no shortage of cretins and there
may be cases of behavior of a provocative character on the Polish
side, as well as on the Russian (side),” Justice Minister Jaroslaw
Gowin told reporters Friday.
Courts have also convicted some of those arrested Tuesday in
fast-track trials, though some ended up with only suspended
sentences. Gowin was critical of the suspended sentences, saying he
fears such leniency will only encourage further violence. Foreign
Minister Radek Sikorski appealed Friday to the courts and
prosecutors to deal decisively with ”hooligan banditry.”
Two Russians were among those found guilty of hooligan violence
and they were immediately expelled from Poland, and will be banned
from the European Union for five years, according to Ivetta Bialy,
spokeswoman for Mazowieckie, the province where Warsaw is
Associated Press writer Monika Scislowska contributed to this