Authorities investigating World Cup final pitch invasion

A pitch invasion by four protesters during the World Cup final, for which Russian punk band Pussy Riot claimed responsibility, is being investigated by the authorities.

During the 51st minute of the showpiece final between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, four people ran onto the pitch, one of whom reached the centre circle.

The protesters were quickly apprehended by security staff before being taken off, with play held up for around one minute.

Following the pitch invasion, Pussy Riot said via the band’s social media channels it had been behind the disturbance, also retweeting a picture of a woman, dressed in an old-fashioned police uniform, sharing a high-five with France forward Kylian Mbappe.

Defender Dejan Lovren clashed with another protester after the interruption halted a Croatia attack.

France went on to win the game 4-2, lifting the World Cup for the second time.

A statement from the Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee given to Press Association Sport on Sunday evening said: “The incident involving four persons who managed to unlawfully gain access to the pitch during the second half of the final match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup is currently being investigated by the authorities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Moscow to attend the World Cup final at the Luzhniki Stadium. (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“At this point in time, the Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee does not have any further information and does not comment third-party statements.

“Further statements will be made in due course after consultation with the authorities.”

Pussy Riot attracted global attention for critical performances against Russia President Vladimir Putin, which in 2012 resulted in two of the women from the group being sent to prison for almost two years.

One of the pitch invaders shared a high-five with France forward Kylian Mbappe (Aaron Chown/PA)

Putin was in the stands at the Luzhniki Stadium, sitting with FIFA president Gianni Infantino and near French President Emmanuel Macron.

In their statement following Sunday’s incident, Pussy Riot said members had “performed in the FIFA World Cup final match – ‘Policeman enters the Game'”.

Following the incident, a separate video message was later released, which also included footage of the pitch invasion filmed from the stands inside the stadium.

The group claimed there was “no rule of law in Russia and any policeman may easily break into your life for no reason”.

Security were quick to tackle the pitch invaders (Owen Humphreys)

After a positive reception to the way “good Russian policemen” behaved during the World Cup, Pussy Riot asked: “But what will happen once it ends?”

The group said it wanted to reflect on the “heavenly policeman” image portrayed by late Russian poet Dmitriy Prigov, hence the uniforms of the protesters.

Pussy Riot’s text statement called for all political prisoners to be free, to “stop illegal arrests on rallies”, “not fabricate criminal accusations and not keep people in jails for no reason”, as well as to “allow political competition in the country”.

The case of Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian film director and vocal opponent of the decision by Russia to annex Crimea, was also highlighted.

In 2015, Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years for conspiracy to commit terror acts, charges which he denies, and went on a hunger strike during mid-May demanding the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners.

- Press Association

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