Posted on May 23
Poland has asked Russia to consider shifting its Euro 2012 base from a central Warsaw hotel, Sports Minister Joanna Mucha said Wednesday, amid concerns about a politically-sensitive rally.
"Talks are ongoing with Russian representatives. We've told the team that it might be in their best interests to consider a change," Mucha said.
"I already raised this issue two or three months ago. Even then, there were discussions about the fact that this could be a difficult situation, and a challenge. So we're waiting, and there'll be a final decision in a few days," she added.
The Russian team has booked Warsaw's upscale Le Meridien Bristol as its base during the European championship, which kicks off in the Polish capital on June 8.
But June 10 will see a regular monthly rally outside the presidential palace, next door, in memory of Polish head of state Lech Kaczynski.
He died in a plane crash on April 10, 2010, as his official jet tried to land in fog in Smolensk, Russia, to mark a World War II massacre of thousands of captive Polish troops by the Soviets.
The crash claimed the lives of all 96 people on board, including a string of other high-profile Poles.
While an official report blamed the Polish pilots and the air force's command, as well as failings at Smolensk's ageing airport, many Poles give credit to conspiracy theories about Russian involvement in the death of the Moscow-critical Kaczynski.
The 10th of the month rallies also have a domestic political edge, with the late president's identical twin, conservative opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, accusing Poland's centrist government of being soft on communist-era master Moscow.
Like Poland, Greece and the Czech Republic, Russia are in in Group A at Euro 2012.
They play their first game on June 8 against the Czechs in the southwestern city of Wroclaw, the same day Poland face Greece in Warsaw, then return to the capital ahead of their emotionally-charged match against the Poles on June 12.
With both Poland and Russia home to a hooligan hardcore, and sharing centuries of bad blood, Polish and Russian media have seized on claims that nationalist football fans could clash during Euro 2012.
Polish authorities have played down the idea, however, saying the two countries' police forces were working hand in hand to head off trouble.
Thousands of Russian fans are expected to flock to Euro 2012, co-hosted by Poland and ex-Soviet Ukraine.
Their supporters' association planned to rent Warsaw's huge Torwar sports centre to let ticketless Russians watch matches together on a big screen.
But it has changed tack, as the Smolensk crash victims' coffins lay in state there in 2010.
"From a moral point of view, it's not appropriate to organise a Russian fanzone there," said association head Alexander Shprygin, adding that they were seeking a new location.
Russia's Euro 2012 training base will be at a stadium in Sulejowek near Warsaw.
In another historical twist, it was home to independence icon Jozef Pilsudski, who halted a Bolshevik Russian invasion at the capital's gates in 1920.