Government Calls For Russia To Be Stripped Of Hosting Champions League Final After Ukraine Invasion
The Champions League Final is scheduled to be held at the Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg in May (Alamy)
The government is calling on Uefa to strip Russia of the right to host the Champions League final after "a flagrant breach of its international commitments" following military advances into Ukraine.
A government spokesperson said the UK “will not allow President Putin to exploit sporting and cultural events on the world stage to legitimise his renewed illegal invasion of Ukraine”.
The Champions Leage final is currently due to be played at the 68,000 seat Krestovsky Stadium, known as the Gazprom Arena, on 28 May, but the culture secretary Nadine Dorries said she has “serious concerns” about sporting events due to be held in Russia.
Boris Johnson also urged Uefa to strip St Petersburg of the right to host the match during a Commons statement on Tuesday announcing a package of sanctions against Russia.
“It's absolutely vital in this critical moment that President Putin understands that what he is doing is going to be a disaster for Russia,” he told MPs.
"It is clear from the response of the world to what he has done already in Donbas that he is going to end up with a Russia that is poorer as a result of the sanctions that the world will implement.
"A Russia that is more isolated, a Russia that has pariah status – no chance of holding football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey challenged the Prime Minister to push for the Champions League final to be moved.
Johnson reiterated that he believed it was "inconceivable that major international football tournaments can take place in Russia," in light of what is now expected to become a "full-scale" invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier on Monday, former sports minister Tracey Crouch had also called on football's governing body to “urgently reconsider” holding the sport’s biggest European club match in St Petersburg following Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops into the Donbass.
Crouch told PoliticsHome following Moscow's decision to send forces into Ukraine yesterday, she believed an alternative venue should be found.
“Uefa should urgently reconsider the decision to hold the Champions League final in Russia following Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine,” said the MP, who recently chaired the government’s Fan-Led Review of Football Governance.
The call was echoed by fellow Conservative MP Julian Knight, the chair of the Commons committee on culture, media and sport.
"It is vital that the Champions League final does not go ahead in St Petersburg," he tweeted. "For Uefa to allow it to do so would send out all the wrong messages."
A Uefa spokesperson there are "at present" no plans to revise the venue for the event.
“Uefa is constantly and closely monitoring the situation," they added.
Four Premier League teams are still in the competition, with English sides contesting two of the last three finals, Chelsea defeating Manchester City by a goal to nil in Porto last May.
The last time Uefa held the Champions League Final in Russia in 2008, Manchester United defeated Chelsea on penalties at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
This morning Sajid Javid said it is a "dark day" for Europe as he confirmed Russian forces have now advanced into eastern Ukraine.
Tanks and troops were seen entering two regions in eastern Ukraine after Putin sought to formally recognise Donetsk and Luhansk as part of Russia on Monday evening.
Speaking to Sky News, the health secretary said the government believes the actions amounted to an "invasion" of Ukraine, and the UK was preparing its response.
"We are waking up to a very dark day in Europe and it's clear from what we have already seen and found out today that the Russians, President Putin, has decided to attack the sovereignty of Ukraine and its territorial integrity,” Javid added.
The minister added that the UK was in close contact with the Ukrainian leadership and had confirmed their commitment to impose tough economic sanctions "as we said we always will".
"We will make those sanctions as targeted as possible to the people who are responsible for this flagrant breach of international law," he added.
Boris Johnson chaired a meeting of the UK’s emergency Cobra committee early this morning and was briefed on the latest intelligence after Putin ordered his troops to carry out "peacekeeping" duty in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Speaking afterwards the Prime Minister said the Russian president has "completely torn up international law" by his actions in Ukraine and there will now be an "immediate package of economic sanctions".
He said further details will be given in the House of Commons later today, but said the measures will be aimed not just at entities at regions including Donetsk but also "in Russia itself, targeting Russian economic interests as hard as we can".
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