Russian ultras – hardline supporters driven by violence and a neo-Nazi agenda – had got into Saturday’s Euro 2016 opening match equipped with gloves, gumshields and flares, intent on wreaking maximum chaos.
Some wore England shirts to make it easier to carry out their vicious attacks on unsuspecting fans in the stands of the Stade Vélodrome.
Liverpool fan Paul Robinson, 48, said: “There were men, women and children throwing themselves over the barrier and onto the netting. There was such a crush. I thought it was going to be another Heysel.”
Paul Atkinson, from Plymouth, added: “It was disgraceful, we got no protection at all. Where were the police? It was an unmitigated disaster.”
Another fan, Sam Blackwell, told how stewards had been left to deal with the violence alone for up to 10 minutes before police arrived to help.
He said: “We were surprised how slack the searches were going in, they were almost non-existent. It was just a quick pat down and they let you through.
“If they were doing them properly how would the Russian fans have got fireworks and the flares in?”
In spite of the extraordinary scenes, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko at firstclaimed there had been no clashes , insisting: “It’s exaggerated, everything is fine here.
“The British were upset, of course, but it all quickly dissolved.”Mr Mutko, whose country is due to host the World Cup in 2018, added: “There was no clash. The entire English sector just got up and ran away.
“There were no scuffles, police were standing there. Everything is ok.”
He later admitted UEFA were right to open disciplinary proceedings, adding: “It’s clear some people didn’t come here to watch football. They’ve covered their faces and then brought shame on their country.”
England fan Ian Allsop, 45, from Luton, was beaten with a baseball bat by one Russian hooligan.
Builder Ian, who has followed England away for many years, said he would never return to Marseille. He said: “The Russians were completely organised.
“They wore gum shields. They were there to do the English. They were thick-set stocky guys. People were getting bottles smashed on their heads, baseball bats smashed into them.”
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Roberts, heading Britain’s police operation in France, said the attacks were the most coordinated he had seen.
Mr Roberts said: “England has had its problems with hooligans in the past. But the Russians are entirely different – they’re like nothing we’ve seen. They are highly organised and determined to carry out sustained violent attacks at a level of aggression I’ve not encountered in the past 10 years.
She wrote on Twitter: “Tear-gassed for no reason, caged and treated like animals! Shocking!”
The French government said last night it was introducing a booze ban at stadiums and fan zones.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said: “I’ve asked for all necessary measures to be taken to prohibit the sale, consumption and transport of alcoholic drinks in sensitive areas on match days and the day before, and on days when fan zones are open.”
French authorities are now having to deal with the nightmare of hundreds of thousands of Russian, English and Welsh fans meeting in Lille on Wednesday and Thursday.
There was trouble in Nice yesterday afternoon where local youths reportedly attacked Northern Ireland and Poland fans.
And last night, German and Ukraine fans clashed in Lille before their game, with bottles and chairs being thrown in the main square.
Russia will play Slovakia in the city on Wednesday - the same day British fans will flock there for their game in nearby Lens the following day.
Ironically, UK police last week advised ticketless England fans to watch the game in Lille rather than swamping the smaller town of Lens.
Mr Roberts, the lead for football policing in the UK, said: “If you’ve not got a ticket, don’t go to Lens.
“Go to Lille instead, where there’s a bigger fanzone.”
One Russian thug wrote online: “That was just the start English. Wait for the next game. We will have more fun.”
Another wrote: “I look forward for round two. Ha ha.”
Up to 150,000 English and Welsh fans are expected to cross the Channel for the match on Thursday afternoon.
Some Russian fans leaving Marseille yesterday on Sunday apologised for the actions of their ultras.
Dasha Timofeeva, 27, from Siberia, was at the game with her 55-year-old father, Viktor.
She said: “We are of course sorry to the English who got hurt, but please believe us that not all Russian people are like these hooligans.
“We were very surprised that there were no police in the stadium.
“In Russia the police are very strong and keep the hooligans in control. There was no control in the stadium last night.
“But also, the English fans were not kind either. My father and I were in the Old Port and had to run away from the bottles and gas.
“Other England supporters said sorry to us. So both countries have good and bad people at football matches.”
The British Government has now offered to send more UK police to France ahead of England’s match in Lens.
The violence after England’s 1-1 draw followed three days of fighting on the streets of Marseille, with drunken England fans clashing with locals, rival fans and police since descending on the French south coast on Thursday.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said six British nationals remain in hospital following the violence and Home Secretary Theresa May has spoken to her counterpart in Paris, interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
The No10 spokeswoman said, while UK officers have been in France since before the tournament began, they had offered to send more “to support the security operation around the match in Lens”.
She added: “UK police will be assisting the French with their post-incident investigations and supporting them to gather evidence, including evidence against any England fans involved in the disorder.”
England fans were being pulled aside and quizzed by police as they got off the Eurostar from France at London’s St Pancras station yesterday.