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Russian minister criticises fans for Euro 2016 violence

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko on Sunday criticised the behaviour of his country’s fans following disturbances at the Euro 2016 match against England and said UEFA was likely to impose a fine. The fans “behaved improperly,” Mutko said, but he said organisers were also to blame for failing to control the fans adequately at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Saturday.

“We will get a fine from UEFA, as I understand it,” Mutko told R-Sport news agency.

UEFA said Sunday it was bringing disciplinary proceedings against Russia for the crowd disturbances.

It said Russia was charged with racist behaviour, crowd disturbances and setting off fireworks.

UEFA only has jurisdiction over incidents within stadiums and not the mass brawls between Russian and English fans that raged for hours in Marseille’s Vieux-Port area before the match.

Mutko admitted the violence was a blow to Russia’s image ahead of its hosting of the World Cup in 2018.

“Of course as hosts of the future World Cup we need to preserve our image and people shouldn’t spoil it. That’s the worst thing,” he said.

He blamed poor organisation and security procedures, telling TASS state news agency that “such matches need to organised properly, you need to separate out the fans.”

“There were squibs and firecrackers, that’s bad of course. There wasn’t any netting, nothing,” he added.

Russian’s Channel One state television also criticised the crowd control arrangements, noting that although the match was earmarked as high-risk by organisers, there was no buffer zone between the fans.

As the players left the pitch at the end of the 1-1 draw, Russian fans were seen charging into a section occupied by English supporters and fists were thrown.

The violence though was restrained compared to the scenes before the match when hundreds of English and Russian fans fought pitched battles in the Vieux-Port area of Marseille.

An Englishman was left fighting for his life in hospital after apparently being hit on the head with an iron bar.

R-Sport reported that the violence in the stadium broke out minutes before full time, when a group of fans “started lighting fireworks and throwing flares onto the pitch.”

“After the final whistle, some of these fans climbed into the England fans’ area — there was no buffer between them,” it reported. “They started pulling down England flags as trophies and smashing everything that came to hand.”

A spokesman for the Russian consulate in Marseille told TASS state news agency that “we have information on one Russian fan detained. He faces prison. The fan is accused of causing bodily harm with serious consequences.”

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