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Friday, 15 April 2011

Ukraine officials dismiss UEFA fears that Euro 2012 tournament will be plagued by fascist attacks

Ukraine's political officials have dismissed fears that visitors could be the victims of fascist attacks during the Euro 2012 tournament.

Borys Kolesnikov, the Deputy Prime Minister, was responding to a UEFA report that documented more than 200 serious hate crimes at matches in Ukraine and Poland during an 18-month period. These included fans racially abusing their own black players, the use of fascist banners and violent attacks on anti-racist groups.

"Ukraine is 100 percent ready with regards to security," Kolesnikov told The London Times before using the Heysel disaster, in which 39 people died after fan rioting, as his example to suggest no country is exempt from problems. "Look at the 1985 European Cup Final between Liverpool and Juventus. Any country can have reason to be cautious about fans. Fears can always exist."

The majority of the incidents in the report by the East European Monitoring Center happened in Poland, but 62 happened in Ukraine, including an attack by neo-Nazi Dynamo Kiev fans on left-leaning Arsenal Kiev supporters. One fan was stabbed three times at the match last August while Dynamo fans chanted "Heil Hitler."

Markiyan Lubkivskyi, Ukraine's tournament director, said, "Racism is not a Ukrainian problem, but we know we have to work with police in terms of communication and language. It's the tip of the iceberg. We have to show we are not a police state, but we have to be sure everyone can feel safe."

Michel Platini, the UEFA president, has promised a zero-tolerance approach to hooliganism, but Martin Kallen, the body's operations director of 2012, admitted concern at crowd trouble before last month's friendly between Poland and Lithuania.

That prompted Poland's Interior Ministry to announce a raft of new measures, including banning orders and summary trials to be held within stadiums. Analysts claim that football hooliganism in Poland now has strong links with organised crime.

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Lubkivskyi said safety and security were his main concerns but with a million visitors expected, he admitted to fears about health and medical facilities, too.

"It would be relatively easy to organise a tournament in Austria and Switzerland, but here we are faced with very different problems," he said.

Euro 2012 will be hosted by Poland and Ukraine next year between 8 June and 1 July.

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