Clashes broke out Tuesday as Russian fans marched to a stadium in Warsaw before a soccer game against Poland, a matchup steeped in the long history of enmity and suspicion.
Riot police tried to separate Russian marchers and Polish fans as dozens of men scrapped. Russian fans blamed the violence on Poles. Reuters reported that Polish fans chanted slogans such as, "Hit the red trash with a hammer, with a sickle" as Russians marched.
Russian fans reportedly also clashed with police. As the brawls continued, police turned to water cannons and tear gas to try to quell the violence, according to Agence-France Presse. Russian media reported Tuesday that 56 people had been arrested, including both Russian and Polish fans.
The Tuesday match, part of the Euro 2012 soccer championships, had been long feared to be a flash point between the two countries, especially with thousands of Russians marching through Warsaw to mark their national holiday of Russia Day.
Poland and Russia have a long history marred by war and occupation. More recently, Poland has bristled at how Russia handled a plane crash that killed the Polish president two years ago, which Russian officials blamed on the Polish air force commander and crew.
Polish Interior Minister Jacek Cichocki told reporters that preparing for the match was “the biggest challenge for law and order forces in the capital,” the Warsaw Voice reported. Some Poles and outsiders argued that the march shouldn't have been held at all, calling it a provocation.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Polish and Russian fans clash on the streets of Warsaw before their two teams met in the Euro 2012 soccer tournament. Credit: Rafal Guz / European Pressphoto Agency