October 10, 2014 / 10:14 AM / 4 years ago

Belarus detains Ukrainian soccer fans for anti-Putin chants

MINSK (Reuters) - Belarus police detained dozens of Ukrainian and Belarussian football fans who shouted patriotic Ukrainian slogans and chanted abuse against Russian President Vladimir Putin at a match, a rights organisation and local media said on Friday.

Fans could be heard chanting an abusive anti-Putin refrain on a video clip before the Euro 2016 qualifier started, while witnesses said there were calls during the match of “Glory to the Heroes!” and “Glory to Ukraine!” — stock Ukrainian rallying cries in Kiev’s conflict against Russian-backed separatists.

Putin, who was in Minsk on Friday for a summit of leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States, is a reviled figure in Kiev since Russia annexed Crimea in March and threw its support behind separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine.

The Minsk-based human rights group Vesna-96 said about 40 people had been held, most of whom were either fined or placed under arrest for five days.

The Belarussian police said in a statement some of those detained had been released and 25 people would appear in court charged with hooliganism.

In Kiev, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Evhen Perebiynis, said: “At the present time, we know that there were 15 Ukrainian citizens detained after the match. Three have been released, 12 are appearing in court. They are accused of sticking up posters.”

Earlier this year, Belarus, a Moscow ally but with a solid relationship with Ukraine, hosted talks on the Ukraine crisis between Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Ukraine beat neighbouring Belarus 2-0 in the European qualifier, which was played in the Belarussian town of Borisov.

“In general, the match passed off peacefully. The atmosphere was fairly friendly,” the police statement said.

Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky; Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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