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UEFA Gives Russia Suspended Disqualification for EURO 2016

FILE - In this Saturday, June 11, 2016 file photo, Russian supporters attack an England fan at the end of the Euro 2016 Group B soccer match between England and Russia, at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France.

Russian fans at the European football championships in France could get their team booted out of the tournament.

European football's governing body UEFA handed Russia a suspended disqualification Tuesday, plus a fine of nearly $170,000, for the violence by its fans against English supporters at their opening match Saturday in Marseille.

The decision means the team will be kicked out of the month-long tournament if its fans continue to engage in violent behavior.

Russians deported

Also Tuesday, French authorities deported 29 Russians for their involvement in those clashes that resulted in police having to use tear gas and water cannons to disperse the out-of-control fans who tarnished the start of the championships.

French police said 150 organized Russian hooligans were responsible for the trouble before Saturday's 1-1 draw against England. Some 20 people have been arrested in connection with the disturbances, with six England fans jailed and more than 30 fans injured.

Russian Football Union chief Vitaly Mutko, who also has a senior role with the International Football Federation, FIFA, said "weak" security is to blame for the incident. But he said UEFA's sanction is accepted and there are no plans to file an appeal, according to TASS.

"It sounds not very good about the [suspended] disqualification," 30-year-old Russian fan Vassily Sukhov told VOA by telephone from the tournament. He traveled to France from Moscow to support Russia's team at all three of its group matches and was at Saturday's game against England.

Police disperse revellers at the old port of Marseille after the England v. Russia - Group B match.
Police disperse revellers at the old port of Marseille after the England v. Russia - Group B match.

"There are plenty of normal Russian guys like me who came here to support the team and will be very disappointed if the disqualification will take place," Sukhov said.

"And, about the deported guys, well you know they came here not to support it, but just to fight. Well, they deserve what they get. And, if you go to fight, and even don't have a ticket to the football match, I think that's bad for the reputation of Russia in the whole world," he added.

The Kremlin denounced the violence and called on Russians to not react to provocation at the tournament.

"This is absolutely unacceptable. We count on Russian citizens and fans to obey the laws of the country they are in," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. He called on Russian sporting officials and groups to use all their influence to ensure Russia's fans behaved themselves in France.

Alcohol banned

Because of the problems in Marseille and at least two other matches involving other teams, the French government decided Monday to ban alcohol in fan zones and other specific areas at the tournament.

"I have asked for all necessary measures to be taken to prohibit the sale, consumption and transport of alcoholic drinks in sensitive areas on match days and the day before, and on days when fan zones are open," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

Security is being tightened at the 10 stadiums hosting games, and the British government offered to send more of its police to France before England's next match versus Wales on Thursday in Lens. Russia's next match is Wednesday against Slovakia in nearby Lille.

VOA's Daniel Schaerf in Moscow contributed to this report.