Why on earth did they let it happen? Poland blamed for sparking Warsaw riots after allowing 5,000 Russians to march on the stadium (on day marking end of the Soviet Union)
Poland’s government has come under fire for letting 5,000 Russian football fans celebrate their national day marking the end of the Soviet Union with a patriotic march through Warsaw.
The nation’s police has also been slammed for being too slow to react to the violence that erupted during the parade, which came ahead of Russia and Poland’s 1-1 Euro 2012 draw.
Ugly rioting saw 184 arrested, including 156 Poles and 24 Russians, and at least another 24 injured.
Scroll down to see footage of the clashes…
Battering: Punches, bottles and missiles were thrown despite the attention of 6,000 officers
Tension: Russia and Poland have a problematic history, which manifested in last night’s violence
But Interior Minister Jacek Cichocki insisted that the 6,400 police, including 2,000 riot officers, sent to deal with the march to the stadium was sufficient.
He told a news conference today: ‘In my opinion, the number of policemen was appropriate. I think the police performed well.’
And he said he hoped the courts would severely punish all those caught fighting in the streets of the Polish capital.
He added: ‘When it comes to our hooligans, I hope the prosecutors and especially the courts will be strict and these people will fully feel the consequences of their antics.’
Cichocki also said the detained Russians would face accelerated court procedure and would likely be expelled from Poland and banned from returning to Europe’s border free Schengen area for five years.
Many have questioned why the march was allowed in the first place, likening it to England fans marching through a German city to celebrate D-Day.
Authorities had been braced for a confrontation at the Group A game between the neighbouring countries.
Relations have been poisoned by centuries of conflict and the Soviet domination of Poland for more than four decades after World War Two.
It has tarnished what has so far been a relatively tarnished tournament, with UEFA also being criticised for staging the game on such an emotive day.
Police fired rubber bullets and used water cannons on the hooligans who fought running battles in the streets of the Polish capital.
Despite it marking Russia’s breakaway from the USSR, the Russia Day marchers were waving Soviet flags – a provocative symbol to many Poles, who were controlled from Moscow for decades.
Fans inside the ground unfurled a huge banner proclaiming ‘This Is Russia’ – another antagonistic reference to the former Soviet control.
Punches, bottles and missiles were thrown. The Poles are said to have used a bridge to ambush their rivals.
‘It was just a free for all and a disgrace,’ said one eyewitness. ‘Innocent people were running and screaming just to get away from these men who behaved like animals.
‘They were kicking out at each other, in the face and the body as they lay on the ground.’
In a separate incident, around 50 Polish fans wearing masks attacked Russian rivals in a Warsaw cafe.