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Published June 15, 2016
After an unexpectedly quiet night in Lille, Russian and Slovakian fans are gathering at the Stade Pierre Mauroy for Wednesday afternoon's European Championship match while a legion of English and Welsh supporters are still in town.
In the morning hours, dozens of Russian and Slovakian fans were peacefully walking the streets in the Villeneuve d'Ascq area, a 10-minute walk from the stadium.
Security forces were in place, with 15 police vehicles lined up along the district's main road near a huge shopping mall. Visitors to the mall were checked with detectors before being allowed in.
"Russia and Slovakia, we are close as nations," said Slovakia fan Maric Blesko, who is from Bratislava. "I don't think there will be problems between us. Brits and Russians, they always fight, the Western and the Eastern countries."
The city was expected to be the scene of fan rioting after Russian and English fans clashed before and during their teams' game in Marseille on Saturday. England is playing Wales on Thursday in nearby Lens, and many British fans are staying in the bigger city of Lille, which is on a direct rail line from London and Marseille.
Russia has been threatened with disqualification by UEFA if its fans create any more violence inside the stadiums at the team's next games.
Bilyal Kotkin, a Russian fan from Moscow, said Russian hooligans "need to be isolated. We need to close the borders on them because football does not go with force and violence."
Alex Abramov, another fan from Moscow, was getting his face painted in Russian flag colors on Wednesday.
"In Russia, football fans (often) are very angry so for Russians that's (what happened in Marseille) not something abnormal," Abramov said. "That's not normally every day but sometimes it happens in Russia. Everything will be OK we hope (here). I hope UEFA will not disqualify us."
However, apart from some minor scuffles and at least one person being detained by police, the night passed without major incidents.
With supporters from four nations converging for the two games in 24 hours in the Lille area, the center of the northern French town, with fine brick buildings and charming squares, quickly became a mini-United Nations on Wednesday morning.
Fans draped in their flags mingled peacefully, drank beer and ate baguettes for breakfast and snapped photos. Police deployed calmly, with a commander directing operations in front of the bubbling fountain at the Flanders train station.
Riot police commander Olivier Dimpre told reporters outside the Flanders station that they are looking for hooligan groups before they get into the town center.
"They also are ready for any disorder," Dimpre said. "Everything that could be done has been done."
At the nearby Europe train station, were Eurostar trains from London arrive, heavily armed soldiers were patrolling in groups of six, twice as much as in previous days.
Over the weekend, downtown Lille was the scene of a minor fight between German and Ukraine fans, leaving two people lightly injured.
AP Sports Writers John Leicester and Rob Harris and Associated Press writer Karel Janicek contributed to this report.