Euro 2016: Russia rolls back support of violence as deportation process begins

• Russian authorities retreat on perceived official support of scenes in Marseille
• Far-right activist Alexander Shprygin among ‘fans’ stopped by French police

On Tuesday, there was something of a rollback of Russian official support for the fan violence that has dogged the early days of Euro 2016. A day previously, the MP Igor Lebedev, who sits on the executive board of the Russian football union, said he saw nothing wrong with the scenes: “Quite the opposite lads, keep it up!” The top law enforcement official Vladimir Markin said the fans were “real men” and Europe had become too used to gay parades to recognise them as such.

On Tuesday, with the threat of disqualification from the tournament looming, Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, said he could not agree with Lebedev and Markin, adding: “I don’t agree with the statements from my colleagues and they don’t reflect the official point of view in any way.”

Lebedev himself slightly tempered his rhetoric. He initially wrote that his response to those who had criticised him for his words was “Russia was, is and will be a great country”. However, later in a message to Russia fans, he said they should keep calm and not respond to provocations. “Don’t allow the possibility for your behaviour to be used against the Russian football union and the Russian team. Our team will prove we are right by playing well on the pitch,” he wrote.

The country’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, said on Tuesday that fans should obey commands from French authorities at all times and “then everything will be OK”.

Euro 2016: opening weekend violence between England and Russia fans

Meanwhile French authorities also appeared poised to deport a number of Russian fans, with the country’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, saying: “Some people cannot stay on national territory.” Alexander Shprygin, the notorious far-right head of a Russian supporters’ group, said French riot police had stopped a bus carrying fans in the town of Mandelieu near Cannes, who were on their way to Lille.

Shprygin told Reuters: “They want to deport almost 50 people including women who did not take part in anything. The police are making up for their mistakes three days ago. We are in a bus in Cannes and we have been blocked in by riot police.”

From the bus, Shprygin sent a series of tweets, saying: “They’ve pulled our bus over, demanding we all get out, searching for weapons and drugs and checking documents.”

He said those who had left the bus had been informed they were being deported: “They’re deporting two women who had nothing to do with anything. We’ve called the consul and are refusing to get out of the bus.” The Russian consul subsequently arrived on the scene and, Shprygin added, the mayor of Cannes was in attendance to observe the operation.

In later tweets, Shprygin added: “We are the OFFICIAL GROUP OF RUSSIAN SUPPORTERS! This is a circus! There are the heads of fan clubs on our bus! Everyone is being deported! Not one person who took part in the Marseille violence has been apprehended but instead they’re deporting the whole Russian supporters union in three days.”

Shprygin went on to tweet that the Russian consul had arrived on the scene and was negotiating with police. There was no official confirmation from French authorities of the deportation decisions.

Mutko later said he believed only four of those on the bus would be deported, while Shprygin said he was neither searched nor questioned by French police, and was told he would be able to stay in France.


Shaun Walker in Moscow

The GuardianTramp

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