(Reuters) - Police detained 78 soccer fans in connection with crowd violence during the Russian Cup match between Shinnik Yaroslavl and Spartak Moscow on Wednesday, the head of the interior ministry in the Yaroslavl region said on Thursday.
Spartak fans threw flares and smoke bombs before the match and during the first half with the situation worsening a few minutes after the break when visiting supporters clashed with riot police, ripping out seats and hurling them onto the pitch.
Pictures also showed a fan holding a Nazi banner.
“We believe that it was a planned provocation,” Nikolay Trifonov, the head of the interior ministry in the Yaroslavl region, told a news conference.
“We have no complaints about the Shinnik fans, all the provocations came from Spartak fans. After the match we detained 78 people.”
The Yaroslavl police have opened a probe into vandalism that could lead to jail terms of up to three years.
Referee Sergey Kostevic interrupted the game in the 53rd minute and ordered the players into the dressing room, allowing police to restore order by bringing in a water cannon truck that fired a jet of water into the stands.
The game resumed more than 20 minutes later with Spartak winning 1-0 through a Dmitri Kombarov penalty.
The Russian FA’s disciplinary committee will hold an extraordinary meeting on Friday to discuss the issue with Russia’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko saying the soccer authorities should be held responsible for the unrest.
The incidents in Yaroslavl came hours after CSKA Moscow were ordered to close part of their stadium for their next Champions League match following racist abuse by their fans during the match against Manchester City last week.
The issue could be embarrassing for President Vladimir Putin, who faces ethnic tensions in Russia as it prepares to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in February and the 2018 soccer World Cup.
Writing by Angel Krasimirov