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Russian Soccer Fans Stage Weekend Walkouts To Protest Police Discrimination

Russian fans of the Zenit soccer team based in St. Petersburg.
Russian fans of the Zenit soccer team based in St. Petersburg.

Russian soccer fans staged stadium walkouts this weekend at top-division matches over what they say is police discrimination that led to arbitrary arrests of visiting Spartak Moscow fans in St. Petersburg on December 1.

Beginning on December 6 and continuing the next two days, fans of Ufa's team based in Russia's Republic of Bashkortostan, Kransodar in the south, Dynamo in Moscow, and Zenit in St. Petersburg marched out in protest during the first half of matches.

In Moscow, on December 8, supporters of both home team Spartak and Rostov-on-Don's Rostov vacated their seats and headed for the exit.

The nationwide protests and rare show of unity involving hard-core fan clubs of at least eight soccer teams were held in response to the arrest of 150-200 fans on December 1 in St. Petersburg between a fixture featuring Zenit and Spartak.

According to St. Petersburg media outlet Fontanka, most of them were arrested for disorderly conduct and petty hooliganism, although no acts of violence had been reported at the time.

Among them was the head of a Spartak fan group who was issued an 18-month venue ban for insults directed at Zenit and Russian national team forward Artem Dzyuba.

Five others were separately detained for drinking alcohol on the street.

The Fratria group, the association behind the boycott, in a statement denounced the police acts as "arbitrary arrests, without explanations."

The following weekend on December 6, Zenit's umbrella soccer support group, Landskrona, announced it would walk out during the team's game against Dynamo Moscow at home.

They were also joined by supporters of Arsenal Tula, Lokomotiv Moscow, Ural Yekaterinburg, and Krylia Sovetov Samara.

The arrests of the mostly Spartak fans are tied to previous matches during which they shouted obscene slogans at Dzyuba, who was raised in the farm club of Spartak but transferred to Zenit in St. Petersburg.

After the repeated incidents of indecent chants, Russian soccer's governing body called for the fans shouting the obscenities to be banned from stadium attendance.

Dzyuba transferred from Spartak to Zenit in 2015.

With reporting by Fontanka,, and AFP