ODESSA, Ukraine, September 24 (RIA Novosti/R-Sport) – Russia’s top police official expressed concern Tuesday about the ability of “radical extremist” groups to infiltrate football fan organizations, after alleged demonstrations of neo-Nazism and racism at a World Cup qualifier in Ukraine sparked an investigation by the sport’s international governing body.
“Today, attempts by radical extremist structures to infiltrate the healthy fan environment and to use its opportunities for their unlawful interests are causing serious concern,” Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said at a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Vitaly Zakharchenko.
Earlier this month, Ukraine beat San Marino 9-0 at home, a match that has since prompted a FIFA investigation into reports of racist and pro-Nazi banners and outbursts from the Ukrainian fans.
Public displays of racism among football fans have long been a problem in Western Europe and can often be encountered at games in Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet republics as well. The issue was thrust into the spotlight last year when a major fan group of Russia’s Zenit St. Petersburg published a manifesto demanding the team field no black or gay players.
While Kolokoltsev’s comments seemed related to Ukraine’s most recent incident, they did not focus explicitly on racism – a thorny but under-addressed problem in Russia – but on extremism.
“It is necessary to remember that in recent years the activities of various international terrorist organizations have intensified,” he said, adding that police should fight the problem with “comprehensive” and “preventative” measures.