Police in Warsaw used a water cannon and fired rubber bullets into the air to push back several hundred masked far right wing protesters who broke away from a march and threw stones and flares at lines of riot police.

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A riot policeman appears to be hit by a flare as he and his colleagues advance towards protestersReuters
poland independence day
Protesters brandish a barrier after several hundred masked men broke away from a far-right march and threw stones and flares at lines of riot police in WarsawReuters
poland independence day
Protesters taunt the police in the red glow of flaresReuters
poland independence day
Lit fireworks are thrown at a line of riot police officersAFP

The violence, which occurred amid celebrations of Poland's Independence Day, has become a ritual – as for a fourth year in a row the march turned violent.

When the march crossed a bridge over the Vistula river to the eastern bank near the national stadium, a group of people broke away.

They tore up paving slabs and benches from a nearby bus station and hurled them at police, along with stones, fireworks and flares.

poland independence day
Far-right protesters throw flares in front of the National StadiumReuters
poland independence day
Riot policemen walk toward protesters throwing stones and flaresReuters

The police responded by firing rubber bullet rounds into the air, and used jets of water, stained red by a colouring agent, from four water cannon trucks.

Three men tried to move forward using a large blue road sign they had torn down as a shield but were also driven back.

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A nationalist protester is hit by a water cannon used by the policeAFP
poland independence day
Right-wing protesters use a traffic sign to shield themselves from water cannonAFP
poland independence day
Armed police confront nationalist protesters on Poland's Independence DayAFP
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Medics attend to a wounded riot policemanReuters

A police spokesman said more than 200 people were arrested, many of them before the march started for carrying items that could be used as weapons. Twenty-three police officers were injured in the clashes.

Earlier, President Bronislaw Komorowski led official celebrations and a march for the holiday, which celebrates Poland regaining its independence after World War I.

For 123 years before that, Poland was effectively wiped off the map, partitioned by Austria, Russia and the German kingdom of Prussia.

At the start of the march, participants chanted "Down with the European Union!" One small group in the crowd, from the city of Chelm, began making Nazi-style salutes, but organisers intervened to stop them.

poland independence day
Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski and his wife Anna walk together with officials during the Independence Day celebrations in WarsawReuters
poland independence day
A far-right protester shouts slogans during an annual far-right rally, which coincides with Poland's National Independence DayReuters
poland independence day
Right-wing nationalist protesters clash with security during a march to mark Poland's National Independence DayAFP
poland independence day
Guards walk in front of right-wing nationalist protesters burning flaresAFP