Lille - French police moved onto the
streets of Lille to keep order on Wednesday as tens of thousands of Russian,
English, Welsh and Slovak fans arrived for the latest round of high-risk Euro
2016 football matches.
Authorities fear that Russia's game against
Slovakia on Wednesday followed by a key England-Wales clash in the nearby city
of Lens on Thursday could trigger a new bout of street fighting.
A police spokesperson said seven arrests were
made during the night, mainly to stop fights erupting between rival groups of
They included two Russians held over
tensions in a cafe where chairs and bottles were hurled and two Ukrainians
accused of carrying prohibited weapons, the spokesman said.
"There were three cases of brawls
between small groups starting between midnight and 1 am but these were quickly
Pitched battles erupted on the streets of
Marseille on Saturday between Russian and English fans, the worst violence at
an international football tournament since the 1998 World Cup.
Violence also flared in the stadium
following their 1-1 draw, prompting UEFA to warn Russia it would be thrown out
of the European Championship finals if there was more trouble.
French authorities said 4,000 police and
gendarmes would be on duty in Lille to prevent a repeat of the unrest which saw
35 people injured. Ten people, including six England fans, have been sentenced
to prison terms over the Marseille battles.
British authorities have also sent extra
police to France to help in the operation.
French authorities have said they expect
between 40 000 and 50 000 England and Wales fans and 15 000 Russians to gather
in Lille with a smaller number of Slovak supporters.
Bars in Lille city centre shut at midnight
on Tuesday and will do so again before the England game. Sales of alcohol in
supermarkets have also been restricted.
But the tension was evident as rival groups
gathered in bars, with a handful of Russian fans briefly throwing chairs and
bottles at England fans who were chanting taunts.
"If the English are brave enough to
come, we'll crush them. We hate the English," one Russian supporter said.
But another Russian fan, Stanislav, said:
"We are here for the game, not for the conflict."
French authorities also rounded up a group
of more than 40 Russian supporters in a hotel near Marseille on Tuesday.
Alexander Shprygin, a far-right figure who
is head of a Russian football supporters' club, said he was part of the group.
Marseille prosecutors believe they have
enough proof to charge some of them over the unrest in the Mediterranean port
French prosecutors have said 150 Russian
supporters who were "extremely well-prepared" and "extremely
violent" evaded arrest in Marseille.
Europe's governing body found Russia
responsible for the Marseille stadium disorder at the weekend and ordered the
"suspended disqualification" of the team.
It also fined the Russian Football Union
Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said
Moscow accepted the UEFA ruling but called it "excessive".
England captain Wayne Rooney and manager
Roy Hodgson have made a public appeal to the country's fans to avoid violence.
Russian striker Artem Dzyuba said however
he was frustrated at the portrayal of England supporters "like
angels" in the confrontations.
UEFA has also warned England it could be
disqualified if there is more trouble, but only Russia was charged over the
conduct of its fans.
The huge security operation around the
tournament was originally aimed at neutralising the threat of jihadist attacks
just seven months after 130 people were killed in a wave of shootings and
suicide bombings in Paris.
The murder on Monday of a police officer
and his partner in a Paris suburb by a radical claiming allegiance to the
Islamic State group has also raised tensions.