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Russia Moves To Curb Fan Abuses At Euro 2012 Football Tourney


Fans celebrate after Russia beat Czech Republic 4-1 during their Group A Euro 2012 match in Wroclaw on June 8.
Fans celebrate after Russia beat Czech Republic 4-1 during their Group A Euro 2012 match in Wroclaw on June 8.
Russia's soccer federation has warned its fans after ugly incidents at the Euro 2012 championships that hooliganism could cost the team vital points at the event in Ukraine and Poland.

The warning was published on the website of the Russian Football Federation after UEFA, Europe's governing body for soccer, opened disciplinary proceedings into alleged violence and racism by Russian fans at the team's opening match against the Czech Republic.

The Russian team dismantled the Czech squad 4-1 in Wroclaw, about 300 kilometers west of the Polish capital.

Video footage has emerged from that opener showing four stadium stewards being attacked -- purportedly by Russian fans. The four stewards were treated at a hospital and released.

A Call For 'Respect'

Russian soccer authorities urged their fans to "respect" their team and their homeland following the incidents.

In an exceptional move, the Russian Football Federation appealed in an official statement after the Czech match to "true football fans" to act responsibly to represent Russia, "yourself, your home, and your team."

WATCH: Video posted to YouTube and purporting to show event staffers (in orange and neon green vests) being targeted in bloody clashes that were said to be with Russian fans:

Meanwhile, Football Against Racism in Europe -- an antiracism network that operates with UEFA's support -- says some Russian fans also waved nationalist flags and shouted racist abuse at Czech defender Theodor Gebre Selassie, who is black. Fireworks also were thrown onto the field.

Gebre Selassie, whose father is Ethiopian, said on June 10 that he "noticed" racist taunting by some Russian fans. But he downplayed the seriousness of the verbal abuse, saying the incident was nothing "extreme."

RFE/RL's Russian service quotes the Interior Ministry in Moscow as saying that four Russian citizens also were arrested as a result of a bar fight in Wroclaw.

Future Fears

Russia's national team, in the meantime, has traveled from Wroclaw on to Warsaw ahead of their match against Poland on June 12, which also is Russia's Independence Day.

Polish authorities are concerned tensions could rise and that there could be clashes between rival Russian and Polish fans in the days ahead.

"The only thing we are against is the Russian people marching, manifesting with the Soviet emblems attached to their clothes their superiority over us -- their independence emblems that are, for us, satanic," Warsaw resident Mariola Gac said.

Russia is eager to avoid soccer controversy. It was selected by FIFA, soccer's international governing body, as the first Eastern European country in history to host a World Cup tournament when Russia was granted rights to host the 2018 event.

Timely Commemoration

In a bid to ease tensions, Russian soccer federation chief Sergei Fursenko placed a wreath in Warsaw on June 10 to honor the late Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others who were killed in a plane crash near Smolensk, Russia, two years ago.

Multiple investigations have played down the role of Russian air-traffic controllers in Kaczynski's death. But historical tensions have contributed to lingering suspicions about who was responsible for the April 10, 2010, plane crash.

Russian Football Federation head Sergei Fursenko (file photo)
The head coach of Russia's soccer team and Moscow's ambassador to Poland both joined Fursenko at the wreath-laying ceremony, which was at a memorial for Kaczynski and other crash victims near the Warsaw hotel where the Russian team is staying.

About 100 Poles held their own ceremony nearby to honor Kaczynski -- whose memory is marked on the 10th day of each month -- while Fursenko placed the wreath and bowed.

"Today is the 10th [of June] and we commemorate the memory of those killed," Fursenko said. "For Russia. it was a tragedy when it happened. When we came here, it was obvious we would think of laying a wreath to honor those who died."

Russia's soccer federation could face fines, but the country is not expected to be docked points or blocked from future competitions regardless of the outcome.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, RFE/RL's Russian Service, and BBC
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