WARSAW, Poland - The Russian football federation's president placed a wreath in Warsaw on Sunday to honour the Polish president and 95 others killed in a 2010 plane crash in Russia.
The symbolic gesture came amid ongoing tensions between Poland and Russia based on a difficult history of war and occupation as well as new distrust that has emerged in the aftermath of the plane crash. The countries play each other in the European Championship on Tuesday.
Authorities are worried that there could be trouble on the streets Tuesday, when Russian fans plan to march in a group to the stadium in Warsaw. Police believe that some Polish hooligans plan a confrontation with the Russians and are taking precautions to prevent trouble, according to a spokesman for the Polish organizers of Euro 2012, Mikolaj Piotrowski. He said police have the upper hand because they know who the key troublemakers are already.
"Police are aware of the fact that there are some groups that will try to take actions but the situation is under control," Piotrowski said.
Sergei Fursenko, the Russian federation president, placed a wreath of pale pink roses, crossed himself and bowed his head before a plaque at the presidential palace in the Polish capital. He was joined by Russia coach Dick Advocaat, who is Dutch.
Nearby, about 100 Poles were holding their own ceremony honouring President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of officials who were killed two years ago in a plane crash in thick fog near Smolensk, Russia. They hold such commemorations on the 10th of each month because the crash occurred on April 10.
Polish authorities were worried that tensions could arise Sunday because the Russian football squad is staying in a hotel next to the spot where the monthly observances take place, before the team's final two Euro 2012 group games in Warsaw.
Fursenko was surrounded by aides and reporters and had no contact with the Poles, who were praying at a spot a few meters away.
Though a Polish investigation determined that the crash was an accident caused by fog, pilot error and other factors, some Poles hold to conspiracy theories claiming the Russians intentionally brought down the plane carrying Kaczynski, a former anti-communist dissident who always remained critical of Russia.
Many Poles find the conspiracy theories ridiculous, yet most are still unhappy at the way the Russians have handled the investigation and aftermath of the crash. Some of the autopsies that Russians carried out contained mistakes, and many Poles are upset that Russian authorities still have not allowed the plane wreckage to be sent to Poland.