MOSCOW: Russian police have been criticised by Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko for using water cannons to disperse rioting fans during a cup-tie in Yaroslavl between Shinnik and Moscow Spartak.

The RIA-Novosti agency reported that scrapping fans ripped out 500 seats as missiles t throw at police during Spartak’s 1-0 win last Wednesday. The match was halted for half an hour while police restored order.

The incident erupted while the image of Russian football was still suffering from the racist chant incident during a Champions League tie between CSKA Moscow and Manchester City.

Mutko said: “When you see water cannons, these are the horrible images for a country that is preparing to host the World Cup in 2018. I have a feeling we have regressed 15 or 20 years. Water cannon are used at mass disturbances when it’s impossible to stop them. But in a stadium it’s not normal.”

Ban threat

The Russian FA statutes could see Spartak receive a home stadium ban of up to three matches over the unrest; a decision is expected later Friday.

A Nazi banner was also unfurled during the game in a development that could land Spartak in yet more trouble. In a website statement, the team claimed that those waving the swastika flag had “no relation whatsoever to Spartak supporters,” and offered a reward for the information on the culprits.

Last summer Russia introduced legislation aimed at curbing misbehavior at sports events. It comes into effect next January 19.

Mutko’s Sports Ministry has registered 14,000 offences at Russian sporting events over the last three years.

In Serbia crowd trouble forced an interruption to the weekend Belgrade derby in which Red Star beat league leaders Partizan 1-0. Fans threw flares at each other, ripped out seats and set it to them on the terraces, sending smoke across the pitch.