Polish police broke up a march by thousands of Russia fans towards Warsaw stadium on Tuesday after fighting broke out between Russian and Polish supporters ahead of the Euro 2012 Group A match between their teams.

Several thousand Russians had begun to cross the Vistula river towards the stadium, flanked by riot police, but the atmosphere soured as groups of rival fans began to provoke each other and sporadic fighting broke out.

Television footage showed several groups of 10-15 men scuffling and police helicopters hovering overhead.

Police tried to break up the fighting but the fans threw missiles at them including rocks, flares and bottles.

About 20,000 Russian fans were expected in Warsaw at a time when relations between the Poles and their eastern neighbor have been strained by a plane crash in Russia two years ago that killed Poland's president and 95 others.

Polish riot police were seen dragging people off and firing smoke into the air, as Polish fans chanted "Russia whore, Russia whore" and "Hit the red trash with a hammer, with a sickle."

City authorities had appealed for calm in Warsaw ahead of the game, and the head of the Russia fan association had said the march would not be political in content.

But in a country where many feel deep resentment against Russia, there were fears the march could trigger violence.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)