MARSEILLE: Twenty Russians including a far-right agitator were to be thrown out of France yesterday as the city of Lens went into lockdown ahead of England’s next Euro 2016 match. Amid diplomatic tensions over the case, three Russian supporters will also be tried in Marseille, the first from their country to face justic for their role in violence around the England-Russia match in the city on Saturday. French police swooped on a group of 43 Russian fans in southern France on Tuesday and carried out identity checks as part of the investigation into the football violence.
Far-right figure Alexander Shprygin, who heads a Russian football supporters’ association, is among the 20 fans from the detained group who will be expelled from France. “He is among the group,” an investigation source told AFP, while the Russian supporters’ association that Shprygin heads also confirmed he was to be expelled.
The other 20 supporters in the group will be freed. The arrest of the Russians turned into a diplomatic incident on Wednesday when Moscow summoned France’s ambassador in protest. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the arrests as “absolutely unacceptable”.
ALERT IN LENS
Thousands of riot police were on high alert in Lens, the industrial northern city where up to 50,000 supporters gathered as England face British rivals Wales at 1300 GMT. Security forces watched English fans closely after 36 people were arrested Wednesday in nearby Lille where riot police carrying shields fired teargas in a standoff with rival fans. The atmosphere in Lens was good-natured before kickoff, but schools in the city were closed because of fan trouble fears. Kevin English, a 53-yearold plumber, was drinking beer and still nursing a bruised and cut eye after a fight with Russian fans in Marseille.
“I was by myself having a drink in the Old Port when a group of Russians came out of nowhere and attacked me. They stamped on me. I have bruises all over my body,” he told AFP. But he said he would not look for confrontation with Russians. “It’s been and gone. I wouldn’t go looking for revenge,” he said.
On Wednesday, brawling erupted when tens of thousands of fans from the Russia-Slovakia match in Lille joined English and Welsh supporters gathering in the city. Riot police staged several tear gas assaults and baton charges. There are 20 British police ‘spotters’ mingling with the crowds. The Germany-Poland game in Paris on Thursday night is also considered a hooligan risk.—AFP