Zürcher Nachrichten - Abramovich to sell Chelsea, Paralympics u-turn: Sport reacts to Russia's invasion of Ukraine

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Abramovich to sell Chelsea, Paralympics u-turn: Sport reacts to Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Abramovich to sell Chelsea, Paralympics u-turn: Sport reacts to Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Abramovich to sell Chelsea, Paralympics u-turn: Sport reacts to Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has sparked a widespread backlash in the sports world, with the country booted out of this year's World Cup. However their Paralympians will be permitted to compete at the Beijing Winter Games under the Paralympic flag.

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AFP Sport looks at some of the main developments:


-- Russia is expelled from the 2022 World Cup after being suspended from all international competitions, FIFA and UEFA announce in a joint statement. The decision also affects Russian clubs in European tournaments.

-- The Russian men's team was due to play in qualifying play-offs in March for the World Cup in Qatar later this year, while its women's side had qualified for the European Championship in England, to be held in July.

-- The Polish FA had previously insisted they would not play Russia in a World Cup play-off semi-final. Poland were due to play in Moscow on March 24, with the winners scheduled to face Sweden or the Czech Republic, who had also said they would boycott any game against Russia.

-- UEFA also announces that it is ending its partnership with Russian state energy giant Gazprom, which was believed to have been paying around 40 million euros ($45 million) a year in a deal due to run until 2024.

-- Saint Petersburg were stripped as hosts of UEFA's Champions League final set for May 28. The game has been switched to the Stade de France in Paris.

-- Chelsea's billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich made the "incredibly difficult" decision to sell the Premier League club, pledging that proceeds would go to victims of the war in Ukraine. The billionaire, alleged to have close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, believes it is in the "best interest" of the Champions League holders if he parts ways with the club he has transformed since he bought it in 2003.


-- The International Olympic Committee urges sports federations and organisers to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events. A ban of this kind would see Russia join the Yugoslavia of Slobodan Milosevic and South Africa under apartheid rule as major sporting pariahs.


-- Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from the Beijing Winter Paralympics, with organisers bowing to international pressure and threats of a boycott. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) had just a day earlier said athletes from the two countries would be allowed to compete as "neutrals" in the Games, which start on Friday.

The ban affects 83 athletes from Russia and Belarus, which hosted troops for Moscow's attack.

"To the para-athletes from the impacted countries, we are very sorry that you are affected by the decisions your governments took last week in breaching the Olympic Truce. You are victims of your governments' actions," IPC president Andrew Parsons told reporters.


-- Russian and Belarusian players will continue to be allowed to compete in ATP and WTA events and at Grand Slam tournaments, under a neutral flag, the sport's governing bodies announce. However, the ITF does ban both countries' teams from the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup.

-- Ukraine's Elina Svitolina on Monday said she would refuse to play Russian Anastasia Potapova in Monterrey, but the former world number three is now expected to take to the court following the WTA's sanctions. Svitolina, who was born in Odessa, had already pledged to donate her prize money from forthcoming tournaments to her country's military and aid groups.

-- Svitolina's compatriot Dayana Yastremska said she and her family spent two nights sheltering underground in Odessa. "We didn't realise or understand what was going on. It was crazy. It wasn't a movie or a video game. We were very shocked. We left the apartment to take shelter in the underground car park while the bombs continued to explode," the former top-25 player told a press conference in Lyon on Monday. Yastremska saved two match points to claim an emotional first-round win against Romania's Ana Bogdan on Tuesday.


-- The Russian Grand Prix, scheduled for September 25, was cancelled, a day after defending world champion Max Verstappen and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel publicly declared their opposition to driving in the race. Verstappen said: "When a country is at war, it's not right to run there." Vettel added: "I will not go. I think it's wrong to race in the country."

-- American Formula One team Haas decided not to sport the Russian colours of its title sponsor Uralkali during the last day of pre-season testing in Barcelona.

-- The FIA has since said that the Russian and Belarusian flags will not be displayed or their national anthems played at its events. However, Russian F1 driver Nikita Mazepin will be able to race.


-- The International Ice Hockey Federation suspends all Russian and Belarusian national teams and clubs from its competitions until further notice. It also strips Russia of the hosting rights for the 2023 junior world championships.


-- Boxing's four major sanctioning bodies -- the International Boxing federation, World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization -- said in a joint statement they will not sanction bouts in Russia. "Just as the world claims for cease of fire, our organizations have decided to not sanction any boxing championships in Russia," they said.


-- Russian President Vladimir Putin was suspended as honorary president of the International Judo Federation (IJF). Putin, an accomplished judoka who was awarded an eighth dan in 2014 -- one of the highest levels in the sport, had been honorary president since 2008.


-- Ukrainian fencers withdrew from the world championships in Cairo to avoid a match with Russia. The male Ukrainian team, dressed in the yellow and blue of their national flag, downed their swords and picked up signs to protest. "Stop Russia! Stop the war!," the signs read, written in English. "Save Ukraine! Save Europe".


-- Rugby's world governing body banned Russia and Belarus from all international rugby "until further notice". Russia's membership of World Rugby was also suspended indefinitely, meaning the country's slim hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup in France are over.


-- The UCI bans all Russian professional teams and national teams from racing in competitive cycling. However, Russian riders who compete for teams from other nations will be able to continue in the sport.


-- The Badminton World Federation (BWF) strengthened within a matter of hours their measures against Russia and Belarus. Having originally cancelled all sanctioned tournaments in Russia and Belarus, they announced a ban on athletes and officials representing the two countries from participating at tournaments sanctioned by the world federation.


-- Putin, like in other sports, has had his personal award, the FINA Order, withdrawn by the governing body. However, FINA stops short of barring all Russians and Belarusians, saying they could be "accepted only as neutral athletes or neutral teams".


-- World Taekwondo said Tuesday they were stripping Vladimir Putin of an honorary black belt, as Russia's attack on Ukraine goes against the sport's motto: "Peace is more precious than triumph". The body also said no Russian or Belarusian national flags or anthems will be displayed and played at events, nor will any future events be organised in the two countries.


-- Russian and Belarus ice skaters have been barred from all competitions by the International Skating Union (ISU). Russia is a powerhouse in figure skating, most recently winning six medals -- two of them gold -- at the Beijing Winter Olympics. The blanket ban on athletes competing also includes short track and speed skating.


-- Russia has been stripped of hosting the men's Volleyball World Championships in August and September by the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB).


-- World Athletics barred Russian and Belarus athletes from all competitions. This includes those Russians competing as Authorised Neutral Athletes (ANA). "Anyone who knows me will understand that imposing sanctions on athletes because of the actions of their government goes against the grain," said World Athletics president Sebastian Coe. "This is different....Sport has to step up and join these efforts (governments etc imposing sanctions) to end this war and restore peace."