Yarmolenko and Zinchenko call on football world to help stop Ukraine conflict

Premier League stars release video as World Rugby bans Russia and Belarus from competitions 'until further notice', while Badminton World Federation cancels all tournaments in those countries

A message of support for West Ham's Ukrainian striker Andriy Yarmolenko on a screen before the Premier League game between West Ham and Wolves at the London Stadium, London, on Sunday, February  27, 2022. PA
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Premier League stars Andriy Yarmolenko and Oleksander Zinchenko on Tuesday joined forces with other Ukrainian footballers to call on the football world to help end the conflict in Ukraine.

In a video released on social media, West Ham striker Yarmolenko and Manchester City defender Zinchenko made an emotional appeal for peace.

During the two-minute clip, the players say: "We appeal to the football community. To everyone who is united by love for the game of football.

"Every fan, every player. Every coach, every manager. We call on everyone who hears us ... stop the destruction and bloodshed. No to war."

The video then shows images of Poland strike Robert Lewandowski, who said that he would refuse to play Russia, and then footage from the League Cup final at Wembley on Sunday, at which Ukrainian flags were shown on the big screen.

The powerful message comes as the International Olympic Committee urged other sports federations and organisers to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events following the events in Ukraine.

World Rugby banned Russia and Belarus from all international rugby "until further notice" on Tuesday.

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 Badminton World Federation (BWF) on Monday also cancelled all sanctioned tournaments in Russia and Belarus, banned them from hosting future tournaments "until further notice" and ordered their flags and anthems banned from all BWF tournaments.

It follows a day after football's world governing body Fifa kicked Russia out of the 2022 World Cup to be held later this year in Qatar. Uefa, the organisation that runs European football, soon followed suit by expelling Russian national teams and clubs from all competitions.

Russia were due to take part in World Cup play-offs this month, but plans to play on neutral territory were dismissed as "unacceptable" by their rivals. Poland refused to play against Russia and the Czech Republic and Sweden, who are in the same playoff route, also ruled out playing Russia while the conflict in Ukraine continues.

"Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine," Fifa and Uefa said in a statement.

The IOC, meanwhile, said it faced a "dilemma which cannot be solved".

"While athletes from Russia and Belarus would be able to continue to participate in sports events, many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so because of the attack on their country," it said in a statement.

"In order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants, the IOC EB [executive board] recommends that International Sports Federations and sports event organisers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions."

If international federations follow the IOC's advice and football's action en masse, Russia would join the Yugoslavia of Slobodan Milosevic and South Africa under apartheid rule as major sporting pariahs.

The IOC also withdrew the Olympic Order, its highest award, from all high-ranking Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin.

ROC says IOC 'contradicting' Olympic spirit

Stanislav Pozdnyakov, the president of the Russian Olympic Committee, said the IOC's recommendations "contradict" the Olympic charter and the "spirit of the Olympic movement".

"We strongly disagree with them," Pozdnyakov said.

The IOC said that if it is not possible for "organisational or legal reasons" to prevent Russian and Belarusian athletes competing, sports officials should do "everything in their power" to stop athletes from the two countries taking part under their country's flags.

It is a matter of particular urgency in relation to the Paralympic Winter Games, which begin Friday in Beijing.

The body "reiterated its full support for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the Games".

The IOC last week urged all international sports federations to cancel forthcoming events in Russia, angry at Moscow violating an "Olympic Truce" with its operation in Ukraine.

Prominent Russian sports stars have not been shy in voicing their disquiet over the conflict.

Andrey Rublev, who won the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title on Saturday, wrote “No War Please” on a TV camera moments after his semi-final win over Hubert Hurkacz; United States-based ice hockey great Alex Ovechkin and Ineos team cyclist Pavel Sivakov have all expressed a desire for peace.

Several countries had already moved to bar Russian competitors from their territory.

On Monday, Ukrainian star Elina Svitolina became the first tennis player to say she will refuse to play Russian and Belarusian opponents. She was due to face Russia's Anastasia Potopova in the first round in Monterrey on Tuesday.

Uefa ended its lucrative contract with Russian state energy giant Gazprom worth a reported $45 million) a year with immediate effect.

Earlier, Uefa had moved the Champions League final away from St Petersburg on May 28 and switched it to the Stade de France in Paris.

The International Ice Hockey Federation banned all Russian national teams and clubs from its events, while organisers of basketball's Euroleague and Eurocup competitions announced that Russian teams had been suspended.

The Formula One Russian Grand Prix scheduled for September 25 was cancelled last week with organisers saying it was "impossible" to hold the race in the current circumstances.

Updated: March 01, 2022, 6:39 PM
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