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Fifa to probe Russia over monkey chants at French during friendly

France’s Paul Pogba scores during the Russia vs France match at the Saint-Petersburg Stadium on 27 March 2018 REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

The world football body Fifa has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Russian Football Union over monkey chants aimed at French players during a friendly international between the two countries in March.

Monkey noises were allegedly aimed at French black players, including Paul Pogba and Ousmane Dembele, during France’s 3-1 friendly win over Russia in St Petersburg last month.

The Russian Football Union (RFU) was initially claimed they had heard nothing but the country's governing body eventually launched its own investigation.

Russian anti-discrimination officer Alexander Baranov said Monday the RFU was "in dialogue with Fifa", and ready to share its findings with the organisation.

After collecting evidence of the abuse, Fifa said Tuesday it was opening disciplinary proceedings against this year's World Cup hosts.

The incident sparked calls to persevere in the fight against racism in soccer, led by French Sports Minister Laura Flessel, a two-time Olympic fencing champion, who called for "European and international" action.

World Cup approaches

Russian football chiefs are under pressure with just two months to go before the start of the World Cup on 14 June as the domestic game has been once again tarnished by incidents of racism and hooliganism.

"These people should not be allowed into stadiums. They should not be giving the world reason to think there is racism in our country," said Alexei Smertin, head of the RFU's anti-discrimination department.

But Deputy Prime Mister Vitaly Mutko played down the incident, saying that monkey chants heard at the game "do not mean that this was some sort of organised act of racism".

"Around 50,000 people turn up for games and there could be some provocations," said Mutko, who has temporarily stepped down from his role as RFU president.

Black players have complained in the past of being subjected to racial abuse in Russian football.

Brazilian great Roberto Carlos, who played for Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala for one season, walked off the pitch in 2011 after a banana was thrown his way during a match.