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News

Russian media base Euro 2016 violence claims on fake Twitter accounts

Russian media including a state-owned news agency have quoted tweets from fake Twitter accounts as the basis for false stories claiming English fans provoked violence at Euro 2016.

Tweets from a Twitter account claiming to be Simon Rowntree, a “football writer for @ForestEchoNews”, were the basis for reports on the England v Russia game in Marseille on Saturday from at least seven outlets including state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.

Stories from at least seven outlets claimed that English fans were singing offensive chants designed to provoke the Russians before there was violence at the match.

RIA Novosti’s report said “riots in the stands ... where the match of the European championship was held ... between the national teams of Russia and England, broke out after the English fans started to insult the Russians told British sports journalist Simon Rowntree.”

Another account quoted by some outlets is Martyn Macintyre, supposedly chief football writer for ForestEchoNews.

Chants the Twitter accounts claimed were sung included “Commie scum, Putin stole Crimea” and “Sharapova takes dope up the arse”, the later referring to Maria Sharapova’s disqualification from competitive tennis for using banned substances.

A quick review of the Forest Echo News website and the accounts claiming to be run by journalists working for it reveals a number of red flags, despite their repeated denials that they are fake accounts.

The picture used on the Rowntree account is from stock photo agency Shutterstock, described as “portrait of happy smiling businessman”, while the Macintyre account uses a picture of House of Cards showrunner Beau Willimon.

Previous tweets from the Forest Echo News account and those claiming to work for it, many highly offensive, are also almost all false reports of events or distortions.

England, Russia and local fans had clashed with French police earlier in the day in Marseille. Uefa threatened to disqualify both England and Russia if there was any further violence.