1. ITV Report

Ukraine hits back at racism claims ahead of the Euros

Violence on the football terraces in Ukraine. Photo: ITV News

Ukraine has hit back against claims of racism among its football fans. Its director of the Euro 2012 championships - starting in ten day's time - said England supporters have nothing to fear.

And an executive director of Shaktar Donetsk, Ukraine's biggest club, also told ITV News' Europe Correspondent Martin Geissler that Sol Campbell's warnings black fans could be killed at the championships are "irresponsible".

UEFA 2012 director Markiyan Lubkivsky, faced with a barrage of questions on racism following a BBC Panorama programme, which showed fans giving the Nazi salute, taunting black players with monkey noises, anti-Semitic chants, pleaded to journalists to declare a "moratorium" on negative information about the championship.

UEFA 2012 director Markiyan Lubkivsky. Credit: Sergei Chuzavkov/AP/Press Association Images

"So much mud has been heaped on this championship, and on the process of preparing for it. Ninety percent of all the information is just not true," he told a Kiev news conference.

He said UEFA saw no threat to citizens of various nationalities who came to Ukraine for Euro 2012. "There are no threats," he said.

Directly addressing Campbell's comments, he said: "These (comments) were for us simply insulting and we do not know what the aim of this statement was."

Masked Ukrainain nationalists shout racist slogans during a May day demonstration in 2006. Credit: REUTERS/Ivan Chernichkin.

"... I'm sure there'll be fantastic food, fantastic culture, fantastic people to meet along the way...So without having first-hand experience myself, I don't feel I'm qualified to discuss how good or bad a country is until I've been there."

Former England skipper Sol Campbell warned those travelling to Poland and Ukraine faced "coming back in a coffin" during the Panorama programme.

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk said: "Nobody who comes to Poland will be in any danger because of his race."

"This is not our custom, as is not pointing out similar incidents in other countries, although we know they take place. In Poland, they're a rarity," he told a news conference in Rome.

Former England captain Sol Campbell. Credit: Reuters

Ukraine's foreign ministry said the allegations were a "dreamed up and mythical problem".

"You can criticise Ukrainian society for a lot of things ... but, in the practice of racism, European Union member countries are a long way ahead of Ukraine," said ministry spokesman Oleh Voloshyn in comments reported by Interfax news agency.

Striker Andriy Shevchenko, who formerly played for the English club Chelsea, said: "We do not have any real problems with racism here.

"Ukraine is a very peaceful country and people here are very friendly. I know that everything will be done for Euro 2012 to take place at a high level."

Oleh Luzhny, who formerly played for Arsenal, was quoted by the online as saying: "No, no and no again. I have never heard any talk about this problem (racism). We have Nigerian football players here and I have never heard about outbreaks of racism."

UEFA has been working closely with the local organisation committees and the host football associations to develop and implement all necessary measures to ensure safety inside the stadia at UEFA EURO 2012.

We are confident that the atmosphere around the matches will be passionnate and that it will be a true celebration of football in a festive environment.

– UEFA Spokesman

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