Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin insists COVID-19 rules should be "mandatory" at sporting events ©Getty Images

Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin has urged athletes to "respect" COVID-19 rules after making a "big step forward" in allowing fans back into sporting stadiums.

His comments come a week after the Russian Paralympic swimming team - including 37 swimmers and 19 coaches - were forced to isolate after a coach returned a positive COVID-19 test.

It was also revealed this month that 81 Russian athletes in training camps had tested positive for coronavirus since May, including two-time European figure skating champion Vladimir Morozov.

Other notable cases include former biathlon world champion Anton Shipulin contracting the virus in July and skiers Alexander Andrienko, Ivan Kuznetsov and Pavel Trikhichev being forced to pull out of the Alpine Ski World Cup in Sölden earlier this month after coming into contact with two coaches that tested positive.

Russia has been hit hard by COVID-19, registering more than 1.5 million cases - the fourth highest tally in the world - and at least 26,269 deaths.

Matytsin has insisted measures are in place to help keep athletes protected from the virus.

"The rules of the competition have been developed, each governor makes a decision on certain rules for the conduct and organisation of the competition," Matytsin said in an interview with the Match TV  channel.

Russian biathlete Anton Shipulin contracted coronavirus in July before going on to make a full recovery ©Getty Images
Russian biathlete Anton Shipulin contracted coronavirus in July before going on to make a full recovery ©Getty Images

"If the rules are in effect, they should be mandatory.

"If they start to work ineffectively, this is a reason to revise them, but if the decision is made, it must be done.

"I turned to federations, clubs and asked them to respect these rules because we are talking about health."

While most countries have been reluctant to welcome back spectators to venues due to the coronavirus pandemic, Russia has been steadily increasing attendances under restrictive measures.

A limited number of fans have been allowed to attend football matches since June and an estimated 30,000 people turned out each day for Formula One's Russian Grand Prix at Sochi’s Olympic Park last month.

"I cannot agree [that football is not being played for fans], we, the Russian Football Union and clubs are doing our best to ensure comfort at the stadiums," Matytsin added.

"Our country is one of the few where matches take place in front of spectators.

"It's a limited number of people, but it's a big step forward."