Animal rights groups slam bear use at Russian soccer match

In this image taken from video provided by FC Angusht Nazran a bear performs before a Russian Second League soccer match between Angusht Nazran and Mashuk-KMV in Pyatigorsk, Russia on Sunday, April 15, 2018. The stunt, which has been condemned by animal rights groups, happened ahead of last Sunday's Russian Second League soccer match in the city of Pyatigorsk. (FC Angusht Nazran youtube channel via AP)

Animal rights groups have condemned the use of a bear that performed before a Russian soccer match

MOSCOW — Animal rights groups have condemned the use of a bear that performed before a Russian soccer match.

The routine happened before a third division match Sunday in the city of Pyatigorsk. TV footage from the game showed the animal being led to the Mashuk-KMV Pyatigorsk club's stadium, clapping at spectators. The bear, named Tima, also held the ball before handing it over to the referee.

The stadium's announcer claimed that the bear will take part in the World Cup's opening ceremony in Moscow in June, but soccer authorities haven't confirmed that. The club's manager says it was borrowed from a circus.

The New York-based World Animal Protection group condemned the stunt Monday, saying that it's clear from the footage that "cruel training methods have been used" on the bear.

Rustam Dudov, manager of the Mashuk club which arranged for the bear to perform, told the Sport Express newspaper Monday that the bear was borrowed from a traveling circus which approached the club suggesting that the bear perform before the game. Dudov said the Russian Football Union approved the performance.

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This story has been corrected to show that the soccer team is in the third division, not the second division.

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