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MOSCOW, December 14. /TASS/. Fans of Lokomotiv Moscow FC should rather start buying tickets for their club’s away match against Turkish Fenerbahce FC as part of Europa League’s Round of 32, despite recently strained relations between Russia and Turkey, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Monday.
"It was a bad luck for Fenerbahce, but tickets need to be purchased," Mutko told journalists. "[Bilateral] relations have not been completely cut. If we had a chance of making a choice, there would have been a possibility not to go. But we have an official calendar now and it must be followed."
UEFA Europa League’s Round of 32 Draw was held in Switzerland’s Nyon on Monday and paired Russia’s Lokomotiv against Turkish Fenerbahce for an away match on February 16 in Istanbul and the second leg encounter in Moscow on February 25.
"Guarantees must be provided if it goes for official competitions," Mutko, who is also the president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), said. "I watch on-line how our national [futsal] team is currently doing in Turkey. There are neither complaints nor problems so far."
Relations between Russia and Turkey were strained after an F-16 fighter jet from the Turkish Air Force shot down on November 24 a Russian Su-24M bomber, which was on anti-terrorism mission over Syria. Ankara claims the Su-24M bomber violated the Turkish air space in the area of the border with Syria, while Moscow maintains that the Su-24M plane stayed exclusively over the Syrian territory.
Following the incident the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Tourism advised Russian nationals against travelling to Turkey over security concerns. Furthermore, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced Russia’s decision to scrap visa-free regime with Turkey starting in 2016.
On top of all, the Russian Football Union (RFU) recommended the country’s football clubs against holding winter-time training sessions in Turkey. Similar recommendation was voiced by the Russian Ministry of Sports.
Kirill Kotov, the sports director of Lokomotiv FC, told TASS after the Draw in Nyon that the club would ponder a possibility of relocating the scheduled away match from Turkey to a neutral site.
"We cannot cancel the Draw," Kotov said in an interview with TASS. "We will think about holding the match on a neutral territory, but the game will be most probably held in Turkey.".