The International Paralympic Committee bowed to pressure and made a U-turn on its decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the Winter Games while Formula One and UEFA imposed new sanctions on Thursday.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to sanctions across global sport, and Belarus, a key staging area for the full-scale invasion, has also been punished.
The Winter Paralympics begin on Friday and 71 Russians and 12 Belarusians will not be allowed to participate after threats of boycott from other nations and escalating tension in the athletes’ villages in Beijing.
UEFA barred all Belarus teams on Thursday from hosting international soccer games, though it could still be expelled from European competitions for joining Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Belarus is still at risk of being banned from international competitions – as Russia was by UEFA and FIFA on Monday – before its next scheduled home game on April 7. Iceland was scheduled in Borisov for a group-stage game in qualifying for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Belarus is already eliminated from qualifying for the men’s World Cup, and was not scheduled to take part in European playoffs on March 24.
Russia was scheduled to host Poland on that date and the national soccer federation is preparing to appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the ban by FIFA and UEFA.
Ukraine wants to postpone its World Cup qualifying playoff against Scotland, FIFA said Thursday, amid a shutdown in domestic soccer during the invasion by Russia.
“FIFA can confirm it has received a request from the Ukrainian Association of Football today to postpone their matches scheduled for March,” world soccer’s governing body said.
Ukraine is set to play Scotland in Glasgow on March 24, with the winner then taking on either Wales or Austria five days later for a place at this year’s World Cup in Qatar.
The Russian Football Union is also appealing against the decisions by FIFA and UEFA to bar its teams from international competitions.
The RFU is looking to expedite the process in the hope the punishment is either overturned or suspended so the national team can play in the men’s World Cup qualifying playoffs this month.
Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic, who are in the same qualifying path, had all ruled out playing against Russia.
UEFA also announced that Belarusian clubs and the national team must play their home matches in UEFA competitions at neutral venues with no spectators allowed.
Meanwhile, eight foreign soccer players have left Russian Premier League club Krasnodar in a continuing exodus of players and staff since Russia invaded Ukraine last week, the club said on Thursday.
Krasnodar said the eight players, including former France international Rémy Cabella and Sweden winger Victor Claesson, asked for their contracts to be suspended but not cancelled, so they could live and train elsewhere.
Formula One cancelled the 2022 Russian Grand Prix last week and the sport’s commercial rights holder announced on Thursday that the country will not have a race in the future after terminating its contract with the promoter.
The Grand Prix, which joined the Formula One calendar in 2014 and had a contract until 2025, was set to move to a new track outside St. Petersburg next year from its current Sochi Olympic Park venue.
Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich’s decision to sell the club he bought in 2003 was described as a “turning point” by British Sports and Culture Minister Nadine Dorries in Parliament as the government looked to target Russian oligarchs with sanctions.
“In football ... we have tolerated the investment of Russian kleptocrats for far too long,” she said during a debate on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, adding the government would bring forward new tests on potential club owners.
As civilian casualties and injuries continue to rise in Ukraine, the International Olympic Committee urged Ukraine’s Olympic Committee president Sergey Bubka to travel to Lausanne, Switzerland, immediately and co-ordinate humanitarian assistance.
“Mr. Bubka will lead on the allocation and distribution of the solidarity fund towards the Ukrainian Olympic community and sports movement,” the IOC said.
“To facilitate this task we will begin collecting information on the whereabouts of these members of the Ukrainian Olympic community as well as ongoing initiatives and support.”
Former Ukraine soccer international and manager Andriy Shevchenko also called for more aid in support of the victims.
“Football doesn’t exist for me any more. I don’t think about it. It’s not the time for that,” the former captain said.
“All my concentration, when I wake up, I think about how I can help my country, what I can do.”
U.S. media and broadcasting firm World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. said on Thursday it had terminated its partnership with Russia’s Match TV and shut down its local network.
WWE programming, including weekly shows Raw, SmackDown and NXT, cannot be accessed on Match TV starting Thursday.
WWE signed Match TV as its local broadcasting partner in early 2020.
The wrestling show counts high-profile Russian-born wrestler Ilya Rukober among its major names on NXT UK weekly. Oleg Prudius, who went by his ring name Vladimir Kozlov, also performed for the company for half a decade before leaving in 2011.