Moscow: A senior Russian Football Union official and ultra-nationalist politician said Monday that the country's fans were right to fight England supporters at Euro 2016.
Russia supporters chant slogans during the Euro 2016 group B football match between England and Russia. Pic/ AFP
Igor Lebedev, who sits on the RFU executive committee and is also a deputy speaker in parliament, said on Twitter: "I don't see anything wrong with fans fighting." "Quite the opposite, the guys did well.
Keep it up!" said Lebedev, a member of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia headed by his father Vladimir Zhirinovsky. He said the violence was "not the fans' fault". Lebedev blamed French police's "inability to organise such events."
Lebedev also claimed in a separate interview with Life.ru tabloid website that Russians were provoked by England supporters and suggested Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko would have enjoyed joining in the clashes.
"I personally think that if Mutko was with the fans on the stands and not an official, he would also go and fight the English fans since they were the ones who started it," Lebedev said. Mutko has said Russian hooligans are "disgracing the country" ahead of its 2018 hosting of the World Cup.
Lebedev's comments came as Russia faces the threat of disqualification from Euro 2016 and a British fan remained in a critical condition after fights in Marseille during and after the England-Russia match on Saturday. The RFU on Sunday urged fans to behave properly to avoid UEFA sanctions against the national side.
UEFA has said Russia and England could face disqualification if there is further fan violence. Lebedev criticised officials and politicians for "branding our fans," however. "We need to defend them: they'll come home and then we'll work out what happened." A Moscow city lawmaker, Maxim Motin, told Dozhd television on Sunday that he witnessed the stadium violence in Marseille and "Russian fans did not do anything criminal or outside the limits."