MOSCOW: Nikolai Tolstykh has stepped down as president of the Russian Football Union after losing a vote of no confidence.

The 59-year-old has been criticised for his financial handling of the RFU, particularly his expensive appointment of Fabio Capello as head coach of the national team.

At the RFU asembly 235 members out of 449 voted against him.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has been reported as the leading candidate to replace Tolstykh.

Nikita Simonyan, veteran former international and the RFU’s first vice president, will serve as acting president pending elections.

Separately Russia’s 2018 World Cup organisers paid tribute to Sepp Blatter after his decision to step down as president of FIFA.

A statement said: “The LOC Russia 2018 highly respects FIFA president Joseph S Blatter for his decision to lay down his mandate at the helm of FIFA, which he has been heading for almost two decades.

“We appreciate the enormous contribution that president Blatter has made to the development of football as head of FIFA at all levels – from grassroot development work to the pinnacle which is the FIFA World Cup.”

The preliminary draw to takes place in St Petersburg on July 25.