Russia and Poland are due to meet tonight in Warsaw (kick off 7.45pm) in their Group A clash in Euro 2012. These two nations have a history fraught with difficulties, indeed, it took tragedy to even begin to bring Russians and Poles together. The tragic death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and the reaction to this of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was the start of a “healing process” between the states, but there are some actions so symbolically potent they might be described as “unwise” to pursue.
You could certainly put today’s march by Russian supporters over a central bridge in Warsaw in the “inappropriate” category. Not only does it pose what Polish authorities have called the “greatest ever” security challenge, but the idea of Russians marching into the capital city of Poland certainly raises painful memories of the past that would be best left buried. BBC journalist Dan Walker tweeted: “Polish MP Andy Hofman on Russian march through Warsaw: “This would be like the Germans marching through Tel Aviv… carrying swastikas.”
So why is this taking place?
Today (12 June) is Russia Day, the anniversary of the declaration of sovereignty of the Russian state in 1990. So quite an important occasion, but there is an understandable fear that with nearly 10,000 Russian supporters having tickets for the game, compared to 29,000 Polish fans, there is a chance that trouble could occur. Any unpleasant scenes would fly in the face of the events of the past few days, which have seen wreathes lain to honour Russians and Poles killed during the Second World War. Furthermore, a “friendly match” between the two sets of fans was meant to have taken place this morning.
Yet the fears still exist, and you can’t blame the authorities for their vigiliance. Poland’s interior minister, Jacek Cichocki, said: “We will be keeping a constant eye on any possible threats.” This match and the events surrounding it pose the “greatest-ever challenge for law and order forces in the capital.” We can only hope that, on the day, football is the winner. Poland go into the game having drawn against Greece in their opening encounter, while Russia are buoyant, after a 4-1 demolition of the Czech Republic.
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