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Animal rights groups slam bear use at Russian soccer match

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

The routine happened before a third-tier match Saturday 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 World Cup organizers say that is not true. 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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