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Moscow prepares for first English visit since Euro Championship clashes

In this June 11, 2016 file photo, spectators run on the stands as clashes break out right after the Euro 2016 Group B soccer match between England and Russia, at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France.

Thanassis Stavrakis/AP

Russian police are getting ready for Tottenham's game against CSKA Moscow on Tuesday in the Champions League. It's the first visit by an English club to Russia since clashes between the two countries' fans marred the European Championship, though a repeat of that mass violence appears unlikely.

Russian and English fans clashed repeatedly in Marseille before and after their Euro 2016 group stage game in June. Groups of Russian fans arrived well prepared for trouble, equipped with mouth guards and martial arts gloves, and French police struggled to cope, deploying tear gas and water cannons.

Russian fan leaders who were in Marseille for the June violence have been warned against a repeat performance, and Tottenham has urged its fans to keep a low profile in the Group E match.

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"All the Russian fans who were in France, all the supporters, were summoned to police departments and hour-long conversations were had with them. No one wants to take revenge on anyone for anything," Alexander Shprygin, head of the All-Russian Fans' Union, told The Associated Press. "Everyone wants to live a quiet life and everyone forgot about the English a while ago."

Two board members from Shprygin's group, which has been accused of far-right links, are currently serving prison sentences in France related to the Marseille violence. However, he said when English fans arrive in Moscow their "safety will be at a much higher level than in Marseille this summer, obviously as long as they don't provoke the citizens."

While CSKA fans were not prominent in the Marseille violence, with supporters of others Moscow clubs such as Spartak and Lokomotiv playing a central role, CSKA has been repeatedly punished by UEFA in recent years for fan racism and occasional violence at games. When Manchester City visited in 2014 in the Champions League, UEFA ordered the game to be played in an empty stadium.

Russian authorities swamp many soccer games with hundreds, even thousands of police as a matter of course, including for relatively minor-league fixtures.

Only around 300 Tottenham supporters are expected to travel, according to Ivan Ulanov, CSKA's head of fan outreach. In Marseille, English fans made a show of occupying the city's Old Port area, which antagonized Russian fans and French locals, but Spurs fans have been told to hide their allegiance in the Russian capital.

"For additional personal security, it is suggested that you do not show your football colours until you are inside the stadium," Tottenham said in travel advice to fans. "Whilst flags and banners are welcome at the stadium, we recommend that they are not openly shown in the city centre."

"We haven't seen much to suggest that what happened over the summer has been a big influence in changing people's minds about whether or not to travel," said Martin Cloake, co-chair of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust. Instead, the Russian visa procedure, which can cost around £150 ($256) and requires biometric testing, is a bigger deterrent. "It's a very expensive trip anyway, and a long journey," Cloake added.

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