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Police brace for fresh violence after English, Russian fans clash in Marseille

AFP | England and Russian fans clashed in the city of Marseille, southern France, on June 11, 2016, ahead of the Euro 2016 football match.

More than 1,500 police were deployed ahead of a Euro 2016 match between Turkey and Croatia on Sunday after violence erupted a day earlier between English and Russian soccer fans ahead of their teams' opening match in the port town of Marseille.

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English and Russian soccer fans hurling bottles and chairs clashed with each other and French riot police in Marseille on Saturday, injuring 35 people, four of them seriously. One English fan was in critical condition on Sunday after being beaten about the head with an iron bar, police sources said.

Scuffles also broke out between visiting fans and locals in the narrow streets leading off of Marseille's Vieux Port (Old Port), with some wielding cafe tables as weapons. Water cannon trucks moved in and dozens of police armed with batons cordoned off streets, firing tear gas to break up the skirmishes.

Tens of thousands of fans descended on Marseille ahead of the evening's match. Broken glass and debris littered some roads and walkways near the Queen Victoria pub, the focal point of clashes between English, Russian and French fans on Thursday and Friday. The Queen Victoria and next-door Irish bar were forced to close their doors to England fans late last night, and several other bars in the Old Port area decided not to show the match on TV.

Ten people have been detained in Marseille in connection with the violence.

On Sunday UEFA, the governing body of European football, announced that it had opened disciplinary proceedings against the Russian Football Union for crowd disturbances, setting off fireworks and throwing missiles.

A decision as to what sanctions will be imposed will be made within the next few days, UEFA said.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said that the UEFA decision to open a disciplinary case against the Russian Football Union was the right decision.

UEFA acknowledged that supporters of opposing teams had not been properly separated and said it would strengthen the deployment of security personnel at stadiums.

Northern Irish soccer fans also clashed with locals in the French city of Nice on Saturday, injuring seven people, BFM TV reported. Video circulating on social media showed bottles and chairs being thrown as riot police moved in to contain the violent scuffles.

The clouds of tear gas produced images of unrest all too similar, though on a much smaller scale, to those in the city 18 years ago when violence flared for two days and nights around England's World Cup game against Tunisia.

The Euro's hooligan spotters

On Friday there were nine arrests and a handful of minor injuries as riot police, out in huge numbers, seemed content to corral the various factions to areas where they could control them and rarely intervened, even when large groups were chasing each other around the town in the early hours. 

With up to 90,000 fans expected to fill the city, authorities were endeavouring to keep some sort of control and the atmosphere around the stadium and on the route to the fan zones was convivial.

There are designated separate routes to approach the Stade Velodrome for the match while the massive beach-side fan zone has been split into two sections, each holding 40,000, in an attempt at rough segregation

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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