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Russia Football Union appoints new anti-racism leader

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MOSCOW (AP) The Russian Football Union has appointed its first dedicated anti-racism official in an effort to crack down on discrimination ahead of the World Cup.

RFU president Nikolai Tolstykh says Alexei Tolkachev has been named ''anti-racism inspector.''

It was not immediately clear what powers have been given to Tolkachev, who already deals with racism as the RFU's head of safety and fan outreach.

Last month, RFU general secretary Anatoly Vorobyov told The Associated Press that he wanted the inspector to gather evidence of racist offenses as part of a push to tighten up enforcement.

The appointment was welcomed by FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb, who also heads FIFA's anti-racism taskforce.

''I commend The Russian Football Union for taking a step in the right direction by appointing Anti-Racism Inspector Alexei Tolkachev,'' he said on Twitter.

Webb said in October that Russian football faces ''huge challenges'' in fighting racism and needs intensive education efforts.

A report by two anti-discrimination organizations last month said there were more than 200 cases of discriminatory behavior linked to Russian soccer over two seasons.