The British government believes Russian hooligans who beat the hell out of England fans in Marseille—putting two of them into comas—were acting at Vladimir Putin’s command as part of his “hybrid warfare” campaign.
That’s according to The Guardian, which notes “a significant number” of hooligans involved were members of the Russian uniformed services, with one detained leader being a member of the official Russian delegation and having previously been pictured alongside Putin.
The attacks—which media outlets (including this one) characterized as riotous, despite them actually being highly organized and “military”—injured 35 people. Russian leaders have praised the hooligans as heroes.
On Friday Putin laughed off fan violence at the Euros and urged local authorities in France to treat supporters from all countries equally. He said the violence was a disgrace, but added: “I don’t know how 200 fans could hurt several thousand Englishmen.”
Russia’s “hybrid warfare” approach aims to establish Russian strength externally while using domestic communication principles to promote national unity. That country denounced the actions taken by French officials against Russian fans as a threat to Paris-Moscow diplomacy.
Donald Trump’s top adviser is closely linked to Putin’s government; Putin has praised Trump as the “top candidate” for the U.S. presidency, while the presumptive GOP nominee has long held a cozy relationship with the Russian president.