British, Russian sides clash amid syp row
LONDON – Agence France-Presse
Football fans out in London late on April 5 for a crunch meeting between British and Russian teams had little interest in the political tumult overshadowing the tie even as relations between the two countries plumb historic lows.
“We just came to support our team,” said Serge Artiomov, 40, a supporter of CSKA Moscow, who played Arsenal in north London.
The reception in the British capital so far had been “brilliant”, he told AFP, convinced fans would behave themselves.
“Of course, it will be peaceful,” he said outside the Emirates Stadium ahead of the Europa League quarter-final first leg, which ended with a 4-1 win for Arsenal.
The match comes around a month since former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found poisoned in the southwestern English city of Salisbury.
London and its major Western allies blame the attack on Russia, which has vehemently denied involvement, and in the ensuing fallout scores of diplomats have been expelled by both sides.
Russian fan Evgeny Meshchnanov, 49, described the political crisis as “a dirty game from our side.”
“It seems to me it’s bad times for Russian people - and for relations,” he told AFP outside the Emirates Stadium.
Barry Dixey, of the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association, said fans were focused solely on the game.
Russia’s embassy in London warned last week that visiting fans faced a “high probability of anti-Russian attitudes.”
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko said on April 5 that Russian and British security services were “not cooperating” on security issues for the game, or the return leg in Moscow next week, due to the Skripal case.