Outrage as bear is made to hand match-ball to referee before Russian football match

The astonishing scene played out before a third-tier game between Mashuk-KMV and Angusht in the country set to host the World Cup this summer.

Video footage shows 'Tim' the brown bear clapping along with the crowd before the football is placed in between its paws.

The match referee then comes over to take the ball in readiness for kick-off as the animal is stood up on its hind legs.

The footage has been blasted by animal rights charities as "inhumane" and "depressing".

Elisa Allen, director of animal welfare charity Peta told the BBC: "In addition to being inhumane and utterly out of touch, using a bear as a captive servant to deliver a football is downright dangerous.

"The bear is the symbol of Russia, so we hope the country's people will show some compassion and national pride and stop abusing them.

"Common decency should compel the league to pull this stunt."

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Visiting team Angusht claimed the bear is set to be involved in the opening ceremony for the World Cup, but this has been denied by Fifa.

Brian da Cal, country director of Four Paws UK told the BBC: "Bears are wild animals and as such have very specific and complex needs.

"Being chained up, muzzled and forced to perform unnatural acts in front of large, rowdy crowds of people causes tremendous stress and can have an untold impact on these animals, both psychological and physical."

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