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20 Russians Thrown Out of France as Police Brace for ‘Battle of Britain’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A flare is ignited as England fans hang a flag onto a bar’s canopy in central Lens, on 16 June 2016, on the day that England plays Wales during the Euro 2016 football tournament. / AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL

Twenty Russians including a far-right agitator were to be thrown out of France on Thursday as the city of Lens went into lockdown over fears of more violence at England’s next Euro 2016 match.

Three Russian supporters will also be tried in Marseille, the first from their country to face justice for their role in violence around the England-Russia match in the city on Saturday.

French police swooped on a group of 43 Russian fans in southern France on Tuesday and carried out identity checks as part of the investigation into the football violence.

Far-right figure Alexander Shprygin, who heads a Russian football supporters’ association, is among the 20 fans from the detained group who will be expelled from France.

“He is among the group,” an investigation source told Agence France Presse, while the Russian supporters’ association that Shprygin heads also confirmed he was to be expelled.

The other 20 supporters in the group will be freed.

Thousands of riot police were on high alert in Lens, the industrial northern city where up to 50,000 supporters gathered as England face British rivals Wales.

The Group B match between has been dubbed “The Battle of Britain.”

Security forces watched English fans closely after 36 people were arrested Wednesday in nearby Lille where riot police carrying shields fired teargas in a standoff with rival fans.

On Wednesday, brawling erupted when tens of thousands of fans from the Russia-Slovakia match in Lille joined English and Welsh supporters gathering in the city. Riot police staged several tear gas assaults and baton charges.

The Germany-Poland game in Paris on Thursday night is also considered a hooligan risk.

Russia has been formally warned by UEFA that they could be thrown out of the competition if their fans cause any more trouble in stadiums. England have also been warned about their fans’ conduct.

UEFA said on Thursday it regretted the violence but it stopped short of action to punish the fans or teams.

The governing body of European soccer said it was planning no Executive Committee meeting in the wake of the overnight violence on the streets of Lille.