Berliner Boersenzeitung - Russia counts sporting cost of Ukraine invasion

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Russia counts sporting cost of Ukraine invasion
Russia counts sporting cost of Ukraine invasion

Russia counts sporting cost of Ukraine invasion

Russia's invasion of Ukraine resulted in serious sporting consequences on Friday as UEFA stripped Saint-Petersburg of hosting the Champions League final and Formula One cancelled the Russian Grand Prix.

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The conflict entered a second day after Russian President Vladimir Putin defied Western warnings to unleash a full-scale invasion that has claimed dozens of lives and displaced at least 100,000 people.

However, after sports bodies had spent Thursday condemning the invasion, on Friday some transformed their words into actions.

UEFA were first off the blocks awarding Paris the Champions League final on May 28 -- to be played at the Stade France -- at the expense of Saint Petersburg's Gazprom Arena.

The Russian government responded by calling the decision by UEFA "a shame".

UEFA made no reference to its relationship with Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant that is a key sponsor of European football's governing body.

A few hours later, Formula One announced the Russian Grand Prix, scheduled for September 25, had been cancelled.

Pressure had grown on the organisers after reigning champion Max Verstappen and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel said they would not go to Sochi.

The Black Sea resort was due to host the race for the last time before it heads to Saint Petersburg next year.

The invasion could also cost the Haas team dearly as Dmitry Mazepin, the father of their Russian driver Nikita, is the non-executive director of their title sponsor Uralkali and close ally of Putin.

The American team had decided not so sport the Russian colours of their sponsor in testing in Barcelona on Friday.

Team principal Guenther Steiner, who maintained that the team was "financially OK", said a decision would be announced next week on the future of Haas's long-term collaboration with Uralkali.

Steiner acknowledged that 22-year-old Mazepin's career with the team "must be resolved" but said "it's not all up to us".

"There are governments involved and I have no power over that," said Steiner.

- 'It is a horror' -

The International Olympic Committee also demanded action. Angered by the breach of the "Olympic Truce" they urged all international federations to cancel any events they had coming up in Russia and Belarus.

"The IOC EB (executive board) today urges all international sports federations to relocate or cancel their sports events currently planned in Russia or Belarus," read the IOC statement.

"They should take the breach of the Olympic Truce by the Russian and Belarusian governments into account and give the safety and security of the athletes absolute priority."

The IOC -- who were joined by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) in condemning the invasion -- also said on Friday the respective national flags of Russia and Belarus should not be flown at sports events.

The IOC pointed out that all 193 UN member states had agreed last December to a global truce beginning seven days before the start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing on February 4 and ending seven days after the closing of the Paralympic Games on March 13.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian athletes plying their trades abroad, also felt the impact.

Goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, who plays for Spanish football giants Real Madrid, was said by head coach Carlo Ancelotti to be "down in the dumps as he is anxious with his mother and friends living in Kyiv".

Ancelotti said they would do all they could to lift the 23-year-old's spirits.

"My grandfather experienced World War I, my father lived through World War II, and they told me lots of stories about them," said Ancelotti on Friday. "It (war) is a horror, full stop."

His comments will have resonated with Russia tennis world number seven Andrey Rublev, who made his views clear after reaching the Dubai ATP final.

The Russian No.2 seed signed the camera lens on court with the message, "No war please."

(B.Hartmann--BBZ)