The Russian football league has been criticised after a trained bear was forced to perform tricks before a third division game.

The animal, named 'Tim', was led out on a leash ahead of the match between Mashuk-KMV and Angusht.

With a muzzle strapped over his face, he is then made by his handler to sit on his hind legs and make clapping motions towards the fans.

A football in then placed between the brown bear's front paws, which the referee then takes before starting the game.

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The sickening scene is completed with Tim turning back to the supporters and clapping again, before the match begins.

The bizarre footage has been criticised by animal rights charities, with Elisa Allen, director of animal welfare charity Peta, calling it 'utterly out of touch'.

She said: 'In addition to being inhumane, 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.'

Russian football is in the spotlight as the country prepares to host the 2018 World Cup, starting in June.