Russian Football Union executive committee member Igor Lebedev has praised the country’s hooligans who caused carnage in Marseille on Saturday, urging them to “keep it up”.
Lebedev, who is also an MP for the nationalist Liberal Democratic party and the deputy chairman of the Russian parliament, blamed the trouble prior to and following Russia’s Euro 2016 opener against England on French police and rival supporters.
A series of tweets from Lebedev read: “I do not see anything terrible in fans fighting. On the contrary: well done to our boys – keep it up!
“The fans are not to blame for what happened in Marseille and other French cities. The fault lies with the police and their inability to organise an event such as this.
“And I do not understand all these politicians and officials who are now judging our fans. We have to protect our fans, bring them home and try to understand them.”
He went further in an interview with www.life.ru, explaining that 90% of fans go to a game looking to indulge in trouble and that that was “normal”.
“Our fans are far from the worst. I do not understand why so many members of the media are trying to denounce the actions of our supporters – and for what, exactly? We have to look at this objectively,” he said.
“Our fans are unlikely to have got involved in a fight in the stands unless they were provoked by the English supporters.
“Look what the English did in the port of Marseille. I do not think our fans have done anything out of the ordinary, and we need to understand that in 9 out of 10 cases, supporters go to a game to fight, and that this is normal.
“Our boys defended the honour of our country and did not allow the English to defile our homeland in any way. Our fans deserve forgiveness and understanding.”
Marseille’s chief prosecutor Brice Robin on Monday confirmed not a single Russian had been arrested for the violence, despite admitting around 150 “ultra-violent and ultra-rapid” of the country’s hooligans were involved.
Six Britons – including a 16-year-old – one Austrian and three French will face trial on Monday.
Thirty-five people were injured with Robin admitting “almost all of the wounded were British”. Four, including an Englishman in a critical condition with brain injuries, were hospitalised.
There were flashpoints on Thursday and Friday around the Old Port area of Marseille but the real trouble occurred on Saturday with well-organised Russian gangs – some wearing masks and balaclavas – working through the city looking for trouble.
There was further violence after the final whistle at the Stade Velodrome with Russian fans breaking through a feeble security cordon to attack England supporters.
Robin confirmed two Russians had been arrested at the ground for encroaching on to the pitch.
On Sunday, UEFA stated any repeat of the violence could see England and Russia expelled from the tournament.