UK government suspects Russian football hooligans are working for Putin and Kremlin
The British government is investigating claims that Russian hooligans causing violent mayhem at the Euros in France have links to the Kremlin and Russia's autocratic president Vladimir Putin.
'The Observer' reports today that many of the thugs attacking English fans, among others, in Marseilles and Lille, have been identified being in “uniformed services” in Russia.
The working theory at play in Whitehall this weekend is that the trouble in France is part of a policy of “hybrid warfare”, a form of war by other means, in which Russia (and Putin) gets to show its strength. Then, by provoking a fiercely critical international response, Russia gets to spin the story as "the rest of the world is out to get us".
An unnamed Whitehall source told 'The Observer': “It is difficult to prove this was sanctioned by the Kremlin but we can see that a number of them are in the uniformed services in Russia. It looks like a continuation of the hybrid warfare deployed by Putin.”
One senior Russian politician, Igor Lebedev, an MP and member of the Russian Football Union executive committee, has already voiced his support of the hooligan violence, tweeting:
“I don’t see anything wrong with the fans fighting. Quite the opposite: well done our lads, keep it up!”
Russian MP: "I don't see anything bad in the fans fighting. Quite the opposite: well done our lads!" https://t.co/kWCXEdAsgV
— Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7) June 13, 2016
For his part, Putin has said the violence is a "disgrace" and a “complete outrage” but also added: "I truly don't understand how 200 of our fans could beat up several thousand English."
Uefa has fined Russia €150,000 (£119,000), and issued a suspended disqualification as punishment for Russian supporters’ part in the Marseille violence.