Kosovo sparks Euro violence

Nineteen fans were arrested and several injured after clashing with Macedonia police, in Kosovo-related violence, during Wednesday's Euro 2008 qualifier with Russia.

The incident occurred during Russia's 2-0 win at the Gradski Stadium, said a senior interior ministry official.

"Nineteen people, including 16 Russians and three Serbs, were arrested for attacking the police force and disturbing law and order," he said.

Following one of Russia's goals, a group of supporters started damaging stadium fittings, before turning on police who had attempted to stop the violence.

The 19 had been arrested after "attacking six policemen, two of whom were injured in a brawl," said the Macedonia interior ministry in a statement.

The match was also marred by nationalist chants, with Macedonia supporters singing "Chechnya, Chechnya", while Russia fans held a large banner with the inscription: "Kosovo is a Serbian land".

A Macedonia court decided overnight that five Russians and one Serb involved in the melee be fined and "escorted" to their home countries, said police sources.

The others were released, according to local media reports.

"The Russian embassy condemns the hooligans' behaviour," Svetlana Solodchuk, press attache of the country's mission in Macedonia, was quoted as saying on local television.

He confirmed the five had been fined and deported to Russia, it reported.

The Macedonia supporters involved in the violence are believed to be ethnic Albanians, who comprise around a quarter of the tiny Balkan country's two million population.

Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since the end of its 1998-1999 war between Serbia forces and ethnic Albania guerillas.

Its future status is set to be determined by early next year, with its ethnic Albania majority seeking independence, a demand that Serbia hopes its traditional ally Russia will help to block with a UN Security Council veto.

[Source: Townsville Bulletin, Aus, by from correspondents in Skopje, Macedonia, 17Nov06]

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