Paris (AFP) – The sporting world roundly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday with UEFA mulling over Saint Petersburg hosting the Champions League final and the IOC claiming the “Olympic Truce” had been broken.
UEFA, the governing body of European football, issued a statement saying it “strongly condemns the ongoing Russian military invasion in Ukraine.”
Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine Thursday, killing dozens as air strikes hit military installations and ground forces moved in from the north, south and east.
Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, has played host to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi — which will be recalled more for the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal — and the World Cup in 2018.
UEFA are to hold an emergency meeting of their executive committee on Friday morning where the hosting of European club football’s premier competition — scheduled to be played at the Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg on May 28 — will be up for discussion.
“Decisions will be taken by the UEFA Executive Committee and announced tomorrow (Friday),” UEFA said in the statement.
European football’s governing body also has a major sponsorship deal with Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant.
The company has already suffered a setback with German football club Schalke 04 announcing they were removing the company logo from their shirts.
World governing body FIFA, meanwhile, have been informed by the Polish, Czech and Swedish football federations they will refuse to play their 2022 World Cup play-offs in Russia.
The Russians host the Poles and if victorious would then be at home to the winners of the Czech Republic v Sweden game.
“The military escalation that we are observing entails serious consequences and considerably lower safety for our national football teams and official delegations,” their joint statement said.
“Therefore, we expect FIFA and UEFA to react immediately and to present alternative solutions regarding places where these approaching play-off matches could be played.”
FIFA said they would monitor developments with regard to the play-offs whilst expressing a hope for a rapid cessation of hostilities.
President Gianni Infantino said he was “concerned” by the “tragic and worrying” situation.
– ‘I will not go’ –
Russian sports stars also raised their concerns over the invasion.
Russian football international Fedor Smolov posted on Instagram “No to war” against a dark backdrop and followed by a Ukrainian flag and a broken heart icon.
Tennis world number seven Andrey Rublev dismissed his Thursday quarter-final win in Dubai over American Mackenzie McDonald as “not important” compared to what was going on in Ukraine.
“You realise how important it is to have peace in the world and to respect each other no matter what, to be united,” said the 24-year-old.
Brazilian footballers playing for Ukrainian sides Dynamo Kyiv and 2009 UEFA Cup winners Shakhtar Donetsk — who have been based in Kyiv since 2014 — were holed up in a hotel with their families in Ukraine’s capital.
“We’re here with our families staying in a hotel because of the situation. We’re asking for the Brazilian government to help. That’s why we’re making this video (posted on Instagram),” said Shakhtar centre-back Marlon.
The IOC blasted Russia for its actions.
“The International Olympic Committee (IOC) strongly condemns the breach of the Olympic Truce by the Russian government,” they said in a statement.
It pointed out that all 193 UN member states had agreed last December to a global truce beginning seven days before the start of the Olympic Games in Beijing on February 4 and ending seven days after the closing of the Paralympic Games on March 13.
Sochi has remained in the sporting sphere due to hosting the Russian Formula One Grand Prix but two superstars of the sport questioned whether the race slated for September 25 should take place.
Reigning champion Max Verstappen said: “When a country is at war, it’s not right to run there.”
Germany’s four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was adamant he would not compete.
“I think it’s horrible to see what is happening,” said Vettel.
“For myself, my own opinion is I should not go, I will not go. I think it’s wrong to race in the country.”
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