— Published 28 February 2022

Sanctions against Russia are falling without stopping

Sanctions are raining down on Russia. They have been falling like hail since the Moscow regime’s decision to invade Ukraine. Already suspended from the Olympic movement for two years, the country is now cut off from the international sports movement.

The IOC has shown the way. The Olympic body abandoned its sacrosanct political neutrality to call on international federations to cancel or relocate any event planned in Russia or Belarus. It also asked that the flags of these two countries not be raised and that their anthems not be played in international competitions.

Since then, the sports movement has joined forces to relay the IOC’s call and isolate the Russian regime. One by one, the authorities have announced their sanctions. They often turn out to be very radical.

UEFA was one of the first to respond. At an emergency meeting, its executive committee confirmed the announcement that the Champions League final would be withdrawn from St Petersburg. It has been relocated to Paris and will be played at the Stade de France. But the question of its partnership with Gazprom has not yet been decided by UEFA. It is on the agenda of a new executive committee meeting this week.

Less drastically, FIFA has required Russia to play its matches under a neutral banner, under the name of the Russian Football Federation, and to play its home games outside the country. A minimum. But the body presided over by Gianni Infantino could soon be forced to go further. Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic, Russia’s assured or potential play-off opponents at the 2022 World Cup, have made it known that they will not meet the Russian team, even on neutral ground. “It doesn’t matter what the name of the team is,” insisted the Polish Football Association.

FIFA has not yet decided whether Russia should be excluded from the 2022 World Cup. But nothing is impossible. The body explains that a “potential exclusion from competitions, that shall be applied in the near future should the situation not be improving rapidly“.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) has announced the cancellation of all its competitions in Russia by the end of the season, “in the interests of the safety of all participants“.

The International Biathlon Federation (IBU) was also quick to respond to the IOC’s call. It decided to ban Russian and Belarusian anthems and flags from World Cup events. In these same competitions, the Ukrainian flag will be systematically raised, even in the absence of its athletes, who are forced to withdraw for the end of the season.

In fencing, the movement of solidarity with Ukraine was initiated by the athletes themselves. Ukrainian fencers decided to withdraw from the team foil World Cup in Cairo on Sunday 27 February before facing the Russians. They held up placards with the words, written in English: “Stop Russia! Stop the war!”; “Save Ukraine! Save Europe.”

The International Fencing Federation (FIE), for its part, has not yet announced direct sanctions against Russia. And for good reason, since it is chaired by the Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, a close associate of Vladimir Putin. His presence at the head of the body could quickly become embarrassing for the fencing world.

Another body chaired by a Russian: the IBA. The International Boxing Federation, headed since last year by Umar Kremlev, is also moving cautiously on the sanctions front. It merely announced that it was “considering rescheduling the Global Boxing Cup, which was to be held in June 2022 in Russia. The matter will be considered by the IBA board at its next meeting.

The International Shooting Federation (ISSF) is also chaired by a Russian, Vladimir Lisin. But it has already decided to withdraw the hosting of the 2022 European Championships from Moscow. They are due to be held in August. The body has also announced that it could do the same for the 2023 World Championships, also planned in Moscow, if the situation does not improve.

On the other hand, the FIVB is taking a wait-and-see attitude. It is true that the world volleyball body has decided to withdraw the organisation of the group phase matches of the Nations League from Russia. This decision concerns the women’s competition, initially scheduled for Ufa from 28 June to 3 July, and the men’s competition in Kemerovo from 5 to 10 July.

But the FIVB has not yet cancelled or moved the men’s World Cup, which is due to be held in Russia from 26 August to 11 September 2022. The tournament, however, appears to be under serious threat. France, the Olympic champion in Tokyo, has announced through its federation (FFVB) that its team will not participate in the World Cup if it is held in Russia.

FINA has already revised its international calendar. The swimming body has announced that the men’s World Water Polo League match between Russia and Greece on 8 March will no longer take place as planned in St Petersburg. The World Swimming and Diving Series, scheduled to take place in Kazan from 8 to 10 April, has been cancelled. The World Junior Swimming Championships (23-28 August) have also been cancelled.

In the last few hours, Russia has also lost the bid to host the World Junior Squash Championships, which were due to take place from 9 to 20 August 2022 in St Petersburg. They will be relocated. It could also soon see its three events withdrawn from the international calendar of the ICF, the world body for canoe-kayak.

The next edition of SportAccord has also been cancelled. It was to be held from 15 to 20 May 2022 in Ekaterinburg. The SportAccord Executive Committee unanimously decided to remove it from the calendar, without announcing a plan B.