Bizarre pitch invasion sees World Cup final descend into chaos

France’s victory over Croatia in the World Cup final was briefly halted by a pitch invasion that saw one of the players clash with a fan.

Four intruders affiliated to anti-Kremlin punk band ‘Pussy Riot’ ran onto the pitch before being hauled off by stewards.

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The pitch invaders, who were dressed in police-style outfits, were later detained by police, one of them told Reuters by telephone from a police station near Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium, venue for the match.

Police said they were investigating the four on suspicion of violating rules for spectating at a sporting event as well as for illegally wearing police uniforms, the Interfax news agency reported.

Crazy scenes. Image: Getty

The former infraction carries a maximum fine of up to 10,000 rubles ($159.92) or 160 hours community service with a ban on attending sports events of up to three years. Wearing a police uniform illegally carries a fine of 1,000-1,500 rubles.

In a post on its Facebook page, the group said its action was intended to draw attention to what it said were human rights abuses in Russia.

Three of Pussy Riot’s original members were jailed in 2012 for staging a protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin in a church and the group have since become a symbol of anti-Kremlin direct action.

In the second half of Sunday’s match, the three people wearing white shirts with police-style epaulettes, black trousers and police hats ran out onto the pitch from the area behind the French goal. A fourth person tried to run onto the pitch but was tackled on the sidelines.

Stewards remove a pitch invader during the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

The three ran about 50 meters, dispersing in different directions, before stewards wearing high-visibility jackets tackled them to the ground and dragged them off the pitch.

One photograph on social media showed one of the pitch invaders, a woman with blonde hair tucked under a police cap, performing a high-five with France player Kylian Mbappe before being caught.

The match, watched from the stands by Putin and the French and Croatian presidents, was halted, but resumed about 25 seconds later. A witness at the stadium said he had seen police escorting the pitch invaders out of the stadium grounds.

The pitch invasion was the first significant security lapse in the five-week tournament that has won hosts Russia widespread praise for their good organization and efficiency.

Pussy Riot member Olga Kurachyova told Reuters she was one of the pitch invaders and was being held at Luzhniki police station. She said she could not speak further because police were trying to take her mobile phone away from her.