Russia tells fans to behave
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Russian soccer fan shout as they march through Warsaw, June 12, 2012. REUTERS photo
Russia's football union Thursday told fans to be on their best behaviour at Euro 2012 matches after the country was fined and threatened with a six-point deduction from the next Euro qualifying campaign because of rowdy supporters.
European football's governing body UEFA slapped a 120,000-euro ($150,000) fine on the union on Wednesday after Russian supporters threw fireworks during their Group A opener against the Czech Republic in Poland last week.
Russia was also given a six-point deduction in the qualifying round of the next Euro championship in 2016, with the punishment suspended during a probationary period until the end of the 2016 playoffs.
UEFA also initiated disciplinary proceedings over the display of potentially inflammatory "Russian Empire" flags at the ground in the southwest city of Wroclaw where the match was played.
Polish police are also hunting for a group of Russians who attacked four volunteer stadium stewards after their team's rousing 4-1 win in Friday's encounter.
The Football Union of Russia (RFS) issued a strongly-worded message to fans on Thursday saying they had no justification for their behaviour and were putting their team at risk.
"The Football Union of Russia stands firmly against expressions of violence both inside and outside stadiums," it said in a message posted on its website.
"We ask all Russian fans to show restraint and act in accordance with the rules adopted by UEFA," it stressed.
"The RFS is categorically against anyone's attempts to justify violence and the use of fireworks at the stadium." Russia lead their group after two matches and are in prime position to qualify for the next stage of matches being co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.
But the squad's vast army of fans have been hounded by controversy, and tensions escalated still further on Tuesday after groups of supporters of oldtime foes Poland and Russia clashed as their teams faced off at a match in Warsaw.
Russian state television has been leading its newscasts with footage of hooded Poles violently attacking Russia supporters as they marched toward the stadium.
The incident prompted an unusual telephone call on Wednesday in which Russian President Vladimir Putin told Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk that "organisers of international competitions bear responsibility for the security of foreign fans." Police said on Tuesday they had detained more than 180 fans, vast majority of them Poles, following the violence.