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Kremlin slams BBC documentary on Russian football hooligans as 'low-rate product'

BBC has released a documentary in which Russian hooligans were warning British football fans about a ‘festival of violence’ in response to the notorious clashes during the 2016 UEFA Euro Cup games

MOSCOW, February 17. /TASS/. A recent BBC documentary about Russian football hooligans allegedly preparing to stage a brutal reception for England football fans at the 2018 FIFA World Cup was a low-rate film, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.

"Unfortunately, we are recently witnessing an eroding quality and impartiality of our colleagues from BBC and express our regrets in this regard," Peskov said. "The documentary itself seems to be low-rate product as well."

"Considering high-profile stories of England’s football hooliganism across the whole European continent, it should be probably not up for England raising the issue of football hooligans," Peskov said adding that he personally did not watch the documentary and had no intentions whatsoever to do it.

BBC television channel released a documentary late on Thursday night in which Russian hooligans were warning British football fans about a ‘festival of violence’ in response to the notorious clashes in the French Riviera city of Marseille last year during the 2016 UEFA Euro Cup games.

Announcing the upcoming film on Thursday night, titled "Russia’s Hooligan Army", the UK-based daily, The Guardian, wrote that: "Clashes between Russia and England supporters, centered around the countries’ group-stage meeting in Marseille, blighted Euro 2016 last summer, leading to fears among senior British government officials that the violence unleashed by Russian hooligans was sanctioned by the Kremlin."

The daily also said that the film "shows groups of young men engaging in prearranged brawls against rival firms and preparing physically in order to be ready for next year’s tournament."

Commenting on the BBC documentary, the Russian Embassy in London said in its statement early on Friday that it also viewed the film as Britain’s another government-sponsored attempt to discredit Russia.

"It is worth noting that a similar campaign was underway before the (2016 Winter) Olympic Games in Sochi," the Russian diplomatic mission in London said in its statement.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov voiced a similar opinion saying it was another provocation aimed at disrupting Russia’s preparations for the world’s much-anticipated football tournament in Russia next year.

"This is nothing but just another provocation and another attempt at a smear campaign against Russia, this is why we are reacting calmly to these developments and continue our preparations for the World Cup," Kolobkov told TASS.

"The security issue during the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2018 World Cup is one of the most important," the Russian sports minister said. "I have no doubts that both tournaments will enjoy a warm and friendly atmosphere, while we guarantee the security and safety of all participants and guests of the football tournaments."

The FIFA Confederations Cup, which is also viewed by experts as a rehearsal, a year prior to the FIFA World Cup, will be held between June 17 and July 2 at four stadiums in Russia and they are Moscow’s Otkritie-Arena, the St. Petersburg Arena, Sochi’s Fisht Arena and the Kazan-Arena.

Alexei Sorokin, Director General of Russia-2018 Local Organizing Committee (LOC), said in an interview with TASS commenting on the BBC documentary, that the plot of the film was a pure fiction and that Russia was already accustomed to such incitement.

"It is obvious, that the problem is a pure fiction and we have been already accustomed to such vilification over the past six years," Sorokin said in an interview with TASS. "I am sure that all allegations are ungrounded, while we have a security concept and all agencies involved are clearly aware of their duties within the context of the World Cup’s organization."

"Football fans from all over the world coming to visit us will feel safe and sound," Sorokin added.

Numerous altercations were reported between football fans at the major European football tournament held in France between June 10 and July 10, 2016. The most notorious brawls broke out between Russian and English fans ahead of the June 11th match. Clashes erupted on June 9 in Marseille, peaking on the day of the match - June 12.

Law enforcement authorities resorted to tear gas, smoke pellets and water cannons to disperse the rabble-rousers. According to reports, more than 30 people had been injured in violent altercations, with four people sent to hospitals after sustaining severe injuries.