MARSEILLE, France, Mar 12 – A Russian was taken into custody in Marseille on Monday in connection with an attack that left an English football fan in a serious condition after fighting at the Euro 2016 football tournament.
The 31-year-old, originally arrested in Germany in February, will face trial in connection with a mass attack that left a fan with permanent damage and is under provisional custody, state prosecutor Xavier Tarabeux told AFP.
German police detained the wanted man last month on his arrival at Munich airport en route to Bilbao, where he was travelling for Spartak Moscow’s Europa League tie.
The suspect, who was not named by police, risks up to 15 years in jail in France for attempted homicide and grievous bodily harm.
The Russian embassy in Germany protested the arrest at the time.
“We strongly protest against the detention and the return to a third country of a Russian citizen who had not committed any crime in German territory,” wrote Russian embassy spokesman Denis Mikerine on Facebook.
“We consider this case a possible pretext to exacerbate and politicise hooliganism in football ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.”
The arrest came just months before Russia hosts the World Cup from June 14 to July 15, with fears running high of a repeat of the 2016 rampage by Russian hooligans that erupted in the French port city of Marseille.
Scenes of the street battles ahead of the Russia-England match in Marseille on June 11, 2016 shocked the world and marred the tournament.
The clashes left 35 people injured, including two England fans who suffered serious injuries.
French authorities had for months been seeking the suspect, who along with several other Russian hooligans is accused of attacking 51-year-old England supporter Andrew Bache.
Bache was left paralysed on the left-hand side of his body after being hit around the head with an iron bar.
After months of work with British police to identify the perpetrators of the assault against Bache, French authorities issued an arrest warrant for the Russian suspect in December 2017.
France jailed three Russians and deported more than 20 others over the violence, and Russia was formally warned by UEFA that it could be thrown out of Euro 2016 over the rampage.
As Russia gears up to host the World Cup, hooliganism experts say Russia’s powerful FSB security service has cracked down hard on football gangs and blacklisted many of their leaders in the run-up to the finals.
Russian law enforcement agents are also working with their counterparts from England and other countries to determine which fans planning to attend games are safe, said a Russian source, adding that the final decision on who gets to attend the matches will be made by the Russian security services.