Mass arrests as police mistake rugby for brawl

Reuters - Monday June 12 2006



Players fall foul of 'counter-terrorism action'


More than 100 people were detained in the southern Russian city of Rostov-On-Don after police mistook an innocent game of rugby for a mass brawl.


The Russian news agency RIA said police had received a tip-off about a mass fracas at an empty sports ground on the city's outskirts on Sunday afternoon.


More than 70 officers arrived to find dozens of cars parked around a grassy field and around 60 people watching what appeared to be a fight between two criminal gangs.


The police broke up proceedings and detained some 100 people before determining that they were engaged in a bizarre sport instead of brawling.


All the detainees were released several hours later, but not before being scolded for not alerting authorities ahead of time.


The southern Russian region is adjacent to the troubled North Caucasus, where violence from Chechnya regularly spills into nearby areas.


"Given the difficult, troubled situation in the region, at a time when counter-terrorism actions are being actively conducted, citizens are obligated to inform [authorities] either verbally or in writing of their intentions," said a police spokesman.


The players were quoted as saying such amateur matches were common and were often held in the neighbouring Volgograd and Stavropol regions of southern Russia.


"The fact that police took us to be hooligans, this isn't the first time," said one of the organizers, Alexander, who declined to give his last name for fear of offending the police.


"Honestly, it's the first time that we've ever heard that we're supposed to make public our plans to the local police."



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