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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rugby Mistaken for Brawl

ROSTOV-ON-DON -- Scrums, mauls and rucks and an oddly shaped soccer ball? To police in southern Russia, this rugby match sure looked like a mass brawl.

Police responding to a report of a group of men fighting Sunday found dozens of cars and people gathered in an empty field on the outskirts of Rostov-on-Don, and what appeared to be a fight between criminal gang members.

More than 70 officers detained some 100 people before determining they were playing rugby instead of brawling, releasing them several hours later.

"Given the difficult, troubled situation in the region, at a time when counterterrorism actions are being actively conducted, citizens are obligated to inform [authorities] either verbally or in writing of their intentions," said a precinct police officer, who was not authorized to speak to the media and so did not want his name to be used.

Organizers denied doing anything wrong and said police arrested them in spite of their explanations that they were playing a game. Amateur rugby players in the region have no regular place to play, they said, so they gather several times a year wherever they can.

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