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Zenit St. Petersburg have responded to claims that their fans chanted
Zenit St. Petersburg have responded to claims that their fans chanted racist taunts at Marseille's black players during Wednesday's UEFA Cup match in Russia's northern capital.

UEFA is currently investigating the allegations, which were made by Marseille after the team arrived back in France.

If the investigation produces any findings, the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body will then examine the matter at its meeting on March 20, UEFA said on its website on Thursday.

"Zenit unites in its ranks footballers of different nationalities and religious beliefs," the statement on the Zenit website began. "The club and its players have frequently expressed their attitude to racism by taking part in city and inter-ethnic programs. Apart from this, there was a banner that read 'Zenit is against racism' at the stadium this season."

The club's players come from Russia, Ukraine, Slovakia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Holland, Belgium, Korea, Argentina and Turkey.

The statement also went on to say that the club "expresses its bewilderment over the accusations that the team's fans engaged in "propagating racism."

The statement ended by saying that the club would however look into the allegations.

Although Russian soccer is full of players from different ethnic backgrounds, Zenit have never signed a black footballer. The club denies that this is official policy, yet a number of the side's more hard-line fans have frequently stated that any move by the club, which is financed by Russian energy giant Gazprom, to buy players from, say, Africa or the Caribbean, would lead to protests and boycotts of the side's games.

St. Petersburg has gained the reputation in recent years as one of, if not the most, dangerous city for non-whites in Russia.

Although the allegations of racist taunts during the match against Marseille are as yet unproven, Russian soccer fans, and not only Zenit supporters, have a reputation for racism.

Andrei Bikey, the Cameroonian international and former Lokomotiv Moscow defender now playing for Reading in England, told the British media recently that, "The Lokomotiv fans are fine but when we played against other teams, racism was everywhere, especially when playing against Spartak Moscow. Nevertheless, the police would not protect us. Once, I was followed by three guys, but I managed to escape. In order to protect myself, it would even have been necessary to get a weapon."

Zenit won Wednesday's match against Marseille 2-0 after losing the first game in France 3-1, going through to the last eight of the UEFA Cup on the away goals rule.

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