Euro 2016: France deports 29 Russia fans who were on bus to Lille with far-right fans' association chief

The incident was live-tweeted by Alexander Shprygin, head of the Russian Union of Supporters and a prominent far-right activist

Russia and England fans clashed in Marseille before and after Saturday's Euro 2016 Group B clash
Russia and England fans clashed in Marseille before and after Saturday's Euro 2016 Group B clash

A group of 29 Russian football fans who were accompanied by a government-accredited far-right activist are being deported from France following violence at the Euro 2016 football tournament.

Alexander Shprygin, who has been photographed giving a Nazi salute as well as with the Russian president Vladimir Putin, tweeted from a bus that was stopped en route to Lille for Russia’s match on Wednesday against Slovakia.

Mr Shprygin is the head of the Russian Union of Supporters and an assistant to Igor Lebedev, an official in the Russian Football Union who made headlines on Monday after telling violent hooligans involved in the violence in Marseille: “Well done lads, keep it up!”

Though he denies supporting Neo-Nazi causes, Mr Shprygin has admitted in an Associated Press interview to running social media pages which included far-right photos and memes, and recently said in an interview that he wanted to see “only Slavik faces in the Russian national team”.

Early on Tuesday, he began tweeting that a bus carrying Russian supporters had been stopped, and posted pictures showing a large police presence blocking the vehicle’s path.

After some hours, he said 29 of the group had been told they would be deported back to Russia, while he remained on the bus as the Russian consul was called.

Mr Shprygin posted pictures and video to his Twitter profile of the scenes before and after the England vs Russia match on Saturday, but he denied anyone on the bus had been involved in the violence, either in the stadium or afterwards in the city’s Old Port.

According to Russian media reports after the England game, Russia’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko “congratulated” Mr Shprygin as a representative of the fans.

Mr Shprygin was quoted as saying: “As for the fight, we didn’t speak about that at all. Mutko just congratulated us on the victory and didn’t even mention it.”

According to The Guardian, Mr Shprygin has travelled with the Russia team’s entourage in France and holds official accreditation. He also reportedly joined the Russian delegation to tour France’s host cities in March.

This file photo taken on December 21, 2010 shows then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) and Russia's football supporters association head Alexander Shprygin walking to lay flowers at the grave of slain Spartak Moscow fan Yegor Sviridov in Moscow

Last year, the Uefa-affiliated racism watchdog Fare accused Mr Shprygin of displaying racist and Nazi symbols, and said his role close to the government was a serious liability ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Moscow.

Fare’s executive director Piara Powar said at the time that Mr Shprygin had been photographed repeatedly with symbols and gestures associated with far-right causes.

He “has no place in any organisation that is contributing to putting the World Cup on”, Mr Powar said.

Mr Shprygin told The Associated Press his social media pages showed far-right symbols “from those days [the ‘80s and ‘90s] not as propaganda, but the other way round: ‘Look, that’s what it was like then’”. He accused Fare in turn of being “unprofessional” and blowing up minor incidents to justify the organisation’s existence.

On Tuesday afternoon, Uefa handed Russia a suspended disqualification from Euro 2016 and a €150,000 fine for “crowd disturbances, use of fireworks and racist behaviour”.

French prosecutors say a core group of 150 Russian hooligans travelled to Marseille intent on violence and were responsible for the worst of the fighting around the England game.

Sources have told The Independent the number was closer to 300, and that they came armed with gum shields and MMA fighting gloves hidden in bumbags.

With Russia facing disqualification if there are any further incidents, the Kremlin has urged officials and fan groups to use all their influence to ensure fans behave themselves.

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