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Beware of Russian gangs, Irish soccer fans are told

IRISH soccer fans heading for Moscow next week have been warned they could be attacked by gangs of Russian thugs.

The fans have been advised not to gather in public areas, that their drinks could be spiked and that they could be beaten and mugged.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has issued the warning to the thousands of Irish fans expected to descend on the Russian capital next Tuesday for the Euro 2012 qualifier.

In September 2002, peaceful Irish fans were attacked and injured by groups of nationalist, fascist and neo-nazi thugs on the streets of Moscow following a 3-2 defeat in a Euro 2004 qualifier.

Up to 20 Irish fans required medical treatment -- one fan had to be hospitalised overnight with a broken jaw.

Another, Dubliner Gavin O'Leary, was badly beaten and received hospital attention after a group of newspaper executives were set upon by a gang of up to 20 skinheads in Red Square.

The gang, some armed with blades inserted into their boots, kicked and punched their way through a large group of supporters who had gathered to take pictures and sight-see.

"Major events attract thousands of fans and also can be seen as an opportunity by criminals," the Department of Foreign Affairs has told fans.

"Beware of pickpockets, muggers and bag snatchers, especially in areas where large numbers of people crowd together.

"Drink-spiking followed by robbery can happen and can also lead to violence. Avoid openly carrying expensive items, or anything that might easily identify you as a tourist.

"Racially motivated attacks by racist groups do occur in Russia."

And fans have been warned not to get on the wrong side of Moscow police, who enforce a "no-nonsense" policy.