Europe

Russia's Shprygin, supporters' leader at centre of French spat

Alexander Shprygin pictured with Russian President Vladimir Putin Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Alexander Shprygin (L) and his football movement are backed by President Vladimir Putin and his government

The head of a leading Russian football supporters' association is among 43 Russian fans detained in France after violence in Marseille during the Euro 2016 championship.

The detention of Alexander Shprygin and his fellow fans has prompted an angry response from the Russian government, which has called in the French ambassador in protest.

Mr Shprygin's All-Russia Supporters Union is backed by the Kremlin. He is reported to hold far-right views and has been photographed giving a Nazi salute.

The fans were taken in for questioning after police stopped their bus as it left Marseille en route to Lille. The group had been planning to watch Russia face Slovakia, a game that ended in a 2-1 Russian defeat.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption After a standoff the Russian fans were ushered off the bus near Cannes on Tuesday by French police

Dozens of Russian fans were held after clashes with England supporters before and after the two national teams played in Marseille on 11 June.

Mr Shprygin, who is accompanying the official Russian delegation at Euro 2016, defended the Russian fans' behaviour and denied that they had provoked the clashes that broke out when their team equalised in the dying moments of the England game.

"The English provoked our supporters by throwing beer glasses, making obscene gestures and shouting insults," Mr Shprygin said in one interview. According to him, up to 10 Russia fans were involved but were stopped by security officers, while the England fans fled before any clashes could erupt.


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Image copyright AFP

A hardcore supporter of Dynamo Moscow, he played a key role in the football club's fan movement in the 1990s. He then joined the LDPR, a pro-Kremlin nationalist party, and became an aide to one of its MPs, Igor Lebedev.

Pictures circulating on the internet show Mr Shprygin performing a Nazi salute at a concert given in 2001 by Korrozia Metalla, a heavy metal band also known for its extreme views. Some of its songs are banned in Russia for "inciting ethnic hatred".

Image copyright ROSSIYA 1
Image caption Mr Shprygin has been photographed giving a Nazi salute, but later appeared on TV to deny far-right leanings

Mr Shprygin later spent almost a year in detention for assaulting the Korrozia Metalla frontman known as Pauk ("Spider"). He was given a two-year suspended sentence along with a policeman also involved in the attack.

He has expressed controversial views in interviews, such as that the Russian squad should be represented by "Slavic faces" at the World Cup due to be hosted by the country in 2018. He later denied having any far-right leanings, saying that he was "100% anti-fascist" and that he didn't have "anything against Jews".

As head of the All-Russia Supporters Union, Mr Shprygin has been involved in his country's preparations for the 2018 World Cup.

He has taken part in a number of meetings chaired by President Putin. At one such meeting in Moscow in January 2012, attended by then FIFA President Sepp Blatter and then UEFA President Michel Platini, Mr Shprygin delivered a speech that included criticism of Russian oligarchs for "bulk-buying leading foreign clubs".

He also called for the lifting of a ban on beer sales at Russia's World Cup venues. At the meeting, Vladimir Putin referred to Shprygin as "Sasha" - a diminutive for Alexander - suggesting a degree of familiarity.

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