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UEFA charges Russia over fan violence at Euro 2012

UEFA charged the Russian soccer association on Saturday after fans were filmed fighting with stadium stewards after a European Championship match.

UEFA also is seeking more evidence to investigate reports of "alleged abuse directed at Czech Republic players" during Russia's 4-1 win in Wroclaw on Friday.

"UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Football Union of Russia for the improper conduct of its supporters," it said in a statement.

Anti-racist experts appointed by UEFA to monitor matches reported Saturday that fans verbally abused Czech defender Theodor Gebre Selassie, who is black.

UEFA's disciplinary panel will review the case against Russia — using "security reports and available images" — on Wednesday.

The alleged improper conduct relates to "crowd disturbances, the setting off and throwing of fireworks and the display of illicit banners," UEFA said.

Four stewards at the Euro 2012 stadium in Wroclaw were hospitalized and later discharged after being attacked by Russia fans, city police said.

Online footage showing fans punching the security staff in a stadium concourse area. One steward was punched to the ground and then kicked before the fans walked away.

Earlier Saturday, UEFA released a statement calling it "a brief and isolated incident involving a small group of around 30 fans who attacked a handful of stewards."

Police and a witness who took video footage said the Russia fans became aggressive when stewards tried to capture a man who had thrown firecrackers toward the pitch.

Monitors from the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) fans' network reported to UEFA that Russia fans also displayed a nationalist "Russian Empire" flag.

The symbol was one "we take as evidence of far-right sensibilities," FARE executive director Piara Powar told The Associated Press.

A Russia team spokesman, Nikolai Komarov, said the federation declined comment on details of the reported incidents.

However, Komarov told The Associated Press in a telephone interview: "The federation has many fans. You don't have control over them all."

UEFA rules make national soccer bodies responsible for the actions of team supporters.

The 16 competing countries at Euro 2012 would likely be fined by UEFA before facing possible expulsion from the competition for repeated offenses.

Four years ago, UEFA fined Croatia $19,600 for its fans' neo-Nazi flags and chants during a Euro 2008 quarterfinals loss against Turkey in Vienna, Austria.

No arrests were made Saturday, but police said they had examined security footage and have photos of 12 of the people involved in the attack on the stewards. Police said this information was being given to Polish border guards and Russian authorities in an attempt to capture the men.

In a separate incident in central Wroclaw, four Russians were detained for questioning for allegedly beating up another Russian, who was hospitalized, another Wroclaw police spokesman, Krzysztof Zaporowski, said. The man was treated and later discharged.

The suspects were under the influence of alcohol and police would question them later, Zaporowski said.

In the Ukrainian city of Lviv, a fight broke out between about 10 supporters of Russia and Ukraine outside the fan zone after Russia beat Czech Republic 4-1, police spokeswoman Svitlana Dobrovolska said.

About six Russia fans waving the black, yellow and white flag of the Russian empire and four supporters of the Ukrainian team dressed in the national colors of blue and yellow grappled and punched each before police intervened to stop the fight. The fans were separated, told to behave and released, Dobrovolska said.

"It was nothing serious," she said.

Tensions are high between the two ex-Soviet neighbors as Ukraine seeks to move out of the shadow of its former imperial master and forge closer ties with the European Union.

A potentially volatile clash between Russia and Poland looms in Warsaw on Tuesday — a Russian national holiday when fans plan to march from the city center to the stadium.

Powar expressed concern at nationalist flashpoints, even if Warsaw city authorities deny Russia fans permission to go ahead.

"There is a feeling that the Russians will do it anyway," he said. "We have got a lot of people out and we will be looking."

Powar said Polish feelings were agitated by Russia basing its players in a Warsaw hotel neighboring the country's presidential palace, close to a shrine commemorating the Smolensk air disaster.

Poland's then state president, Lech Kaczynski, was among 96 people who died on April 10, 2010, when their plane crashed in Russia.

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Associated Press writers Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, and Maria Danilova in Kiev, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

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