MARSEILLE, France (AP) — After a week of violence at the European Championship, France sentenced three Russian fans to prison and planned to deport 20 others next week for their role in the violence in Marseille that marred Russia’s opening match against England.
Sporadic violence has since moved to northern France, where Russia played Slovakia on Wednesday and England played Wales on Thursday. But nothing as bad as the violence witnessed last week in the south.
Among the three Russians given prison terms is Alexei Erunov, the director for fan relations at leading Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow. He was sentenced to two years.
Part of the evidence against Erunov was footage filmed by another Russian fan and posted online. Erunov was seen shouting and gesturing on the video, which also showed acts of violence. He denied playing any role in the violence.
Dynamo Moscow fan Nikolai Morozov also received a 12 months sentence and Sergei Gorbachev, the director of a construction company in the central Russian city of Tula, received 18 months.
Gorbachev’s lawyer said the sentence was “relatively severe” and may have been adversely impacted by the media coverage.
“I feel that the media and political context could have interfered with the pronouncement of this sentence,” Chloe Gobet told reporters.
All three also face a two-year ban from France upon release.
The sentences were passed on the same day that French officials announced 20 more Russian fans would be deported because of what regional prefect Stephane Bouillon called “their participation in skirmishes linked to the England-Russia game.”
The 20 were detained alongside the three who were tried Thursday and included Alexander Shprygin, president of the All-Russian Fans’ Union, who has a role in Russian soccer’s governing body and sits on a commission overseeing Moscow’s preparations for hosting the 2018 World Cup.
Shprygin told The Associated Press that Russian fans had been unfairly victimized by French authorities.
“We consider (the deportations) a political decision,” he said, insisting that none of the 20 had been involved in the violence.
“We’ve filed an appeal against our removal. We’re waiting for the consul and for lawyers,” he said, adding that the fans had given phone records to the police indicating that they were not present for the violence around last week’s game.
The men were among 43 Russian fans detained Tuesday after their bus was stopped by French police near the town of Mandelieu in a check for hooligans. In addition to the three
Russian officials have protested the detention and have criticized French policing. The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the French ambassador in Moscow on Wednesday and warned that the detentions could damage French-Russian relations.
UEFA has already told Russian soccer authorities that their team could be kicked out of Euro 2016 if there’s a repeat of the violence that surrounded its match last Saturday against England. Of particular concern to Europe’s governing body is that Russian fans stormed a section of English fans inside the stadium.
English soccer’s governing body has also been warned about the behavior of its fans but the team’s participation in the competition was not under immediate threat on Thursday despite a fresh outbreak of fan violence in the northern French city of Lille that required riot police to deploy tear gas.
Though English fans in Lille were involved in further unrest Wednesday night at Euro 2016, UEFA has said there are no plans for an emergency meeting of its executive committee to discuss any further warning or sanctions against the English Football Association.
Earlier this week, UEFA’s leadership ruled that England – along with Russia – faced potential disqualification if there was a repeat of the violence that surrounded their match in Marseille.
“UEFA regrets the skirmishes which occurred in Lille last night,” European soccer’s governing body said in a statement Thursday. “Police forces made several arrests and were quick to restore order and keep the situation under control.”
The trouble in Lille on Wednesday did not reach the levels of Marseille where English fans were involved in three days of occasionally vicious fighting with Russians.
Local authorities said police made 37 arrests and detained 15 people in custody.
The French interior ministry also disclosed details of the policing operation throughout the first week of Euro 2016, saying 323 people had been detained, 196 jailed, eight convicted and 24 expelled from the country.
In Lille, some mobs of Englishmen in Lille went on a rampage searching for Russian fans whose team played Slovakia in the city. Authorities said there were no recorded brawls between British and Russians.
But in a late-night charge, French riot police sprayed tear gas in an attempt to disperse hundreds of England fans who were staying in Lille ahead of Thursday’s game in nearby Lens against Wales.
“Lille city center was the scene of scuffles … provoked essentially by drunken British nationals, forcing police to intervene to disperse them,” the regional administration said in a statement.
It was the fourth time England fans have been involved in violent incidents since the start of the tournament with fans failing to heed calls for calm from England coach Roy Hodgson and captain Wayne Rooney.
But there was no sign of tension between England and Wales fans when they converged on bars in Lille on Wednesday night ahead of Thursday’s game between the British neighbors in the tiny town of Lens. England beat Wales 2-1 with a stoppage time goal from Daniel Sturridge.
Police across France are trying to suppress soccer hooliganism at a time when the country is under a state of emergency following the attacks that killed 130 people last November.
The bedlam hasn’t been restricted to England and Russians.
Two supporters watching France play Albania in a fan zone in the city of Lyon were slightly injured following a scuffle involving fans from three nations.
Local authorities in Lyon said the altercation broke up Wednesday evening after French supporters started to sing France’s national anthem, “La Marseillaise.” They were confronted by a group of Albania fans, leading police to intervene inside the fan zone.
Privately-hired security agents are normally in charge of security inside the fan zones at Euro 2016, with French authorities dealing with it outside.
Lyon prefecture’s press office said the two fans injured are a Belgian and a Frenchman, “who sustained wounds to their thigh and bottom.” Police did not find the weapon used by the attacker.
In a separate incident, police arrested a supporter who smuggled a flare inside the open-air space set up in downtown Lyon.
The fan zone will be open on Thursday but Lyon prefect Michel Delpuech met with the company in charge of its security in order to reinforce pat-downs at entrances.
Lyon prefecture’s press office said Delpuech is worried that sharpened weapons and flares have been allowed into the fan zone and has asked private security agents, as well as police forces, to be more vigilant.
Harris contributed from Lens, France. AP Sports Writer Samuel Petrequin in Saint-Etienne, France, contributed to this story.