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Key arrest in Russian hooliganism probe

Moscow (AFP) – Russian special police on Saturday publicly detained the far-right football fan leader implicated in this summer’s Euro 2016 violence in France. 

Moscow police said its criminal investigation department hauled in the head of Russia’s national supporters association Alexander Shprygin for questioning and searched his home and office.

Police said that Shprygin was being questioned over a mass fight between football fans in central Moscow on January 31 this year. Russian media reported the fight was between fans of CSKA and Spartak Moscow. 

Shprygin came to international attention at Euro 2016 as the head of the officially accredited fan organisation after Russian hooligans shocked the world with ultra-violent clashes in the south of France.

France deported Shprygin along with other fans, only for him to sneak in again days later and get deported again.

Three other Russian fans — two of them members of Shprygin’s organisation, were sentenced to jail terms of up to two years over the violence that broke out in Marseille around the Russia-England match on June 11.

On Saturday morning, black-clad Russian special police swooped on Shprygin as he attempted to attend a meeting of the Russian Football Union (RFU) at a Moscow hotel.

Sport Express news site posted witness videos showing a group of half a dozen special police, one wearing a balaclava, pull Shprygin from toilets and lead him away.

Sports minister Vitaly Mutko, who was re-elected to a four-year term as RFU president on Saturday, told journalists the arrest was linked to Euro 2016 violence.

During Euro 2016, Shprygin’s links to far right groups came to light, as did footage of him accompanying President Vladimir Putin to visit a fan’s grave with other leaders of fan groups.

Russia was initially sympathetic to the fans, with Putin questioning how a few hundred Russian hooligans could have beaten several thousand England fans.

But Mutko later said that by flouting his deportation order from France Shprygin had showed “disrespect” and was “letting down all of Russian football”.

The RFU on Saturday voted to expel Shprygin’s All-Russian Fan Association, which was created in 2007.

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