A march planned by some 10,000 Russian football fans across Warsaw on Tuesday, a Russian national holiday, ahead of a Poland Vs Russia Euro 2012 match, has prompted fears of tensions over the plane crash which killed Polish President Lech Kaczyński and 95 others.
Many Poles believe Moscow was responsible for the 2010 crash, which occurred in Smoleńsk, western Russia, and claimed the lives of dozens of top Polish officials as well as the head of state.
Meanwhile, incidents of violence and allegations of racist chanting involving Russian fans threatened to overshadow Russia’s headline-grabbing debut in the Euro 2012 football tournament, in which it beat the Czech Republic 4-1 in the western Polish city of Wrocław on Friday.
A Football Against Racism in Europe observer reported that Czech player Theodor Gebre Selassie, who is black, was verbally abused by the crowd, the organization said on Twitter.
Far-right Russian flags were spotted at the match, FARE executive director Piara Powar said.
And a video posted by a Polish internet user online Saturday appeared to show some 30 Russia fans attacking stadium security staff after the Wrocław match. Local police said four stewards needed hospital treatment.
Meanwhile in Lviv, Ukraine, which is jointly hosting Euro 2012, a number of Russian fans clashed with local supporters while celebrating their 4-1 win.
UEFA has told the Russian Football Association that its fans behaved improperly and says its disciplinary panel will review the case against Russia on Wednesday.
Powar expressed concern at possible nationalist flashpoints during Tuesday’s march by Russian fans in Warsaw. He said Polish sensitivities were triggered by Russia basing its players in a plush Warsaw hotel a stone’s throw from the country’s presidential palace, outside which conservative Poles commemorate the Smoleńsk plane crash every month.
In a gesture aimed at reducing tensions ahead of Tuesday’s Poland-Russia game, the Russian football federation president placed a wreath at the presidential palace in Warsaw in memory of President Lech Kaczyński and other victims of the Smoleńsk crash.
Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)