(Update 2: adds Fifa statement)
Madrid Desk, Feb 28 (EFE).- The International Olympic Committee and world football governing body Fifa on Monday moved to suspend Russian and Belarussian athletes from international competitions in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.
In a statement, the IOC said that while the organization was committed to not punishing athletes “for the decisions of their government”, Russia and Belarus’ military campaign in Ukraine — which the IOC said was “a breach of the Olympic Truce” — means that many Ukrainian athletes are prevented from competing in international tournaments “because of the attack on their country.”
The IOC has therefore recommended that international federations and event organizers do “not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions.”
Following the IOC’s recommendation, Fifa banned the Russian national team and clubs from international competitions.
“All Russian teams, whether national representative teams or club teams, shall be suspended from participation in both FIFA and UEFA competitions until further notice,” Fifa said.
The ban means that Russia will be eliminated from qualifying for the World Cup being held in Qatar this year.
The move comes after the soccer’s world governing body had been under intense pressure from several national associations to ban Russia for saying Sunday that it would only ban Russian teams from competing under their national flag and playing matches at home.
Several nations had criticized Fifa for not going further and banning Russia from its competitions outright, with Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic saying they would refuse to play upcoming World Cup qualification matches against Russia.
The formal bans from international sporting bodies come after an outpouring of support and solidarity for Ukraine at soccer stadiums across Europe over the weekend.
At the Premier League match between Everton and Manchester City on Saturday evening, Ukrainian internationals Oleksandr Zinchenko and Vitaliy Mykolenko shared an emotional embrace on the pitch after both sets of players had taken to the field draped in Ukrainian flags.
Sunday evening’s Carabao Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea also displayed messages and gestures of support for Ukraine.
Chelsea’s owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, said on the eve of the final that he was handing over “stewardship and care” of the club to trustees of Chelsea’s charitable foundation.
British media reported that Abramovich, who is one of the wealthiest men in Russia and has close ties with president Vladimir Putin, relinquished day-to-day control of the club amid fears that his assets in the UK might be frozen as part of Western sanctions targeting Russian oligarchs in the wake of the invasion.
On Monday, his spokesperson told the Press Association that Abramovich had been contacted by Ukrainian officials for his help in “achieving a peaceful resolution.”
Across Europe, teams and fans showed their support for the Kyiv government and their condemnation of Putin.
In Germany, Schalke 04 on Monday announced that it had ended its sponsorship agreement with Russian state energy firm Gazprom. The move came after the club announced last week that it was removing the company’s logo from its jersey.
All German football league first and second division matches played at the weekend displayed messages promoting peace and solidarity with Ukraine.
Last week, Uefa, Europe’s governing soccer institution, stripped St Petersburg of the Champions League final. EFE