Stewards speak to Russian supporters after clashes broke out in the stands during the Euro 2016 Group B soccer match between England and Russia, at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, June 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
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The Russian football hooligans who have fought with rival supporters at the European Championship in France have at various times been both an asset and a liability to the Russian authorities.When Russian hooligans fought with English fans in the city of Marseille Saturday and then attacked them inside the stadium, the response in Russia was mixed. The Russian state's complex relationship with hardcore fans was defined in 2010, when thousands of fans angered by the death of a Spartak Moscow supporter in a fight with migrants from Russia's North Caucasus occupied Manezh Square near the Kremlin in a protest which turned into a race riot, with non-Slavic passers-by beaten and stabbed.An example of the intersection between fans and politics is the All-Russian Fans' Union, which holds semiofficial status with Russian football's governing body and is led by Alexander Shprygin, a former assistant to Igor Lebedev, a lawmaker and football official who publicly backed Russian hooligans involved in Saturday's violence.Many hardcore fans hold nationalist views and are strong supporters of Russia's foreign policy in the Ukraine crisis.
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