Russia arrests dozens at Barca-Spartak clash
Russian police arrested around 60 hard-core football fans during the Champions League clash between Spartak Moscow and Barcelona, raising new concerns about fan violence, officials said Wednesday.
The Interfax news agency quoted police sources as saying the fans were arrested outside the Luzhkini stadium in Moscow during the second half of the game which Spartak lost 3-0 to the Catalan giants.
The fans were an "organised group" from Spartak's arch Moscow foes Lokomotiv carrying insignia of their club and were arrested to prevent clashes with Spartak fans, police said.
They were found to be carrying knives as well as mouthguards and boxing gloves "which was evidence that they were planning illegal actions," Interfax quoted an official as saying.
Police also said that inside the stadium one Russian fan was arrested for punching a policeman in the face. His companion was also detained.
Another police source quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency played down the arrests saying "the detention of around 60 people is somewhat less than usual for a match of this level."
But the arrests raise new questions about fan behaviour in the 2018 World Cup hosts after Dynamo Moscow's goalkeeper was injured by a firecracker thrown by a Zenit St Petersburg fan in a premiership clash at the weekend.
The referee was forced to abandon the match.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev expressed fury over the violence at the Dynamo-Zenit game, which he described as "not an incident but a crime."
"There cannot be anarchy. People need to be put in prison for this sort of thing," Medvedev said.
Russian officials say the biggest problem at games is not ordinary supporters but small but well-organised gangs of fanatical fans who seek to provoke trouble with rival sides.