Police on alert as Russian fans march through Warsaw
June 12, 2012
Interior Minister Jacek Cichocki and Sports Minister Joanna Mucha
Russian football chiefs have appealed to fans to avoid trouble when Russia plays Poland in a Euro 2012 match in Warsaw Tuesday, while the Polish authorities are on high alert amid fears of clashes between the two countries' supporters.
“Preparations for Tuesday’s match constitute the biggest challenge for law and order forces in the capital. We will be keeping a constant eye on any possible threats,” Poland’s Interior Minister Jacek Cichocki told a press conference Monday.
Thousands of Russian fans are planning to march today at 5pm from downtown Warsaw to the capital's National Stadium during what is a Russian national holiday. June 12 marks the day in 1990 when Russian lawmakers declared independence from the Soviet Union.
Poland and Russia have a long history of animosity, with Poles resentful at long decades under Moscow's yoke during the communist era. Many Poles see the planned march by Russian fans as a provocation.
However, Poland's Sports Minister Joanna Mucha played down fears at a press conference, saying: "I do not think there will be any problems with this march or with this day. I am sure everything will go all right."
Warsaw’s security chief Ewa Gawor, who discussed the march with Russian fans, said she had asked them to behave peacefully and not to provoke anyone in the streets.
"We want this festival to be peaceful. We have had such assurances. Nevertheless we will be watchful," Gawor told a press conference. Police would intervene as soon as “anyone breaks the law”, she said.
A Warsaw police spokesman said the force was fully prepared but declined to give precise numbers of how many officers would be out on the streets.
Today's march will take place just days after Russian fans brandished nationalist flags and threw fireworks onto the field during their team's opening match against the Czech Republic in Wroclaw on Friday. Russian supporters were also shown in video posted online attacking stewards after the game.
UEFA has launched disciplinary proceedings against the Russian Football Association and is looking into allegations of racist chants by Russian fans directed against Czech player Theodor Gebre Selassie during Friday's match.
Meanwhile, Russia players and the team coach say they are focused solely on soccer. A win would put them through to the Euro 2012 quarterfinals.