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Poland vows to get tough with football hooligan 'idiots'

June 14, 2012


The Warsaw violence also prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to call Tusk, voicing concern over the safety of Russian fans in Poland and asking the Polish leader ensure their security. -Photo by AP

WARSAW: Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Wednesday vowed to get tough with fans who marred a high-profile Euro 2012 match between the national side and Russia, calling them “idiots” who would feel the full force of the law.

More than 180 supporters were detained after police were forced to use water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse violent fans who clashed on the streets of the Polish capital on Tuesday.

The Warsaw violence also prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to call Tusk, voicing concern over the safety of Russian fans in Poland and asking the Polish leader ensure their security.

“The Russian president expressed his concern with the situation with Russian fans in Euro 2012,” Putin's spokesman told Russia's Itar-Tass news agency, adding: “Organisers of international competitions bear responsibility for the security of foreign fans.”

Tusk assured Putin that “all necessary action” was being taken to detain and prosecute offenders, regardless of their nationality, according to a statement from the premier's office.

He said the vast majority of fans had “enjoyed a good atmosphere in Warsaw” on Tuesday, the day Russians also celebrated their post-Soviet independence.

Police had mounted what they said was their biggest ever security operation amid fears of trouble before, during and after the match, which took place against a backdrop of turbulent political and historic ties.

“It (the violence) really wasn't any historic Polish-Russian battle but rather involved several hundred idiots from both sides,” Tusk told reporters earlier Wednesday.

“We'll teach them all a lesson, whether they're Polish or Russian or someone else.”

Poland's sports minister Joanna Mucha had described those involved as “your average hooligans who have nothing in common with real fans” but nevertheless said she was shocked by the violence.

Police, who had 6,000 officers out in force, said in a statement they had arrested 157 Poles and 24 Russians, as well as a Spaniard, a Hungarian and an Algerian. Ten police officers were treated for injuries, as well as 10 fans.

European football's governing body UEFA also condemned the clashes, which threatened to overshadow one of the most high-profile matches of the tournament that began in Warsaw last Friday and ends in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on July 1.

The match itself ended 1-1. UEFA later said both teams would face sanctions after fans set off fireworks in the stadium, while one Russian supporter got on the pitch and a far-right flag was seen at the visitors' end.

UEFA, however, set itself at odds with the Polish authorities by questioning their show of strength at the end of the match, when hundreds of black-clad police in full riot gear amassed in front of the 10,000 or so Russian fans in the stadium.

“UEFA's philosophy is to create a welcoming environment coupled with a low-profile approach to policing,” it said in a statement.

“The focus should be on facilitating the enjoyment of the matches by genuine football fans and isolating the tiny percentage of troublemakers.”

Tusk, though, was unrepentant and defended the high-profile policing tactics.

“We had intelligence that there was a high risk that fans of the Russian team could invade the pitch after the match, which is why there were police in the stadium,” he added.

“I know that some people aren't happy about it. UEFA has a different point of view here but we're the ones in charge of the security of people in this country and that's why we took this decision.”

Russia play their final group match against Greece on Saturday, also in Warsaw.