Ukraine invasion: Czechs to boycott any Russia World Cup match, Elina Svitolina donates prize money

Tomas Soucek in action for the Czech Republic
West Ham midfielder Tomas Soucek captains the Czech Republic side that has reached the 2022 World Cup play-offs

The Czech Republic have joined Sweden and Poland in saying they will boycott any game against Russia in football's World Cup play-offs as sport continues to react to the invasion of Ukraine.

The International Judo Federation has suspended Russian president Vladimir Putin as its honorary president.

Boxing's world governing bodies the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO say they will not sanction any title fights in Russia.

Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina will donate prize money to aid efforts.

The world number 15 saysexternal-link the money will used to "support the army and humanitarian needs and help them to defend you, our country".

At the Fencing World Cup in Cairo, Ukraine's men's foil team refused to fence against Russia on Sunday.

"This is our protest against the war. We cannot fence against them while our families are in danger, and everybody is in danger," said the team.

Meanwhile, Premier League football club Chelsea said the situation in Ukraine was "horrific and devastating".

The statement came after Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, the Russia billionaire who is believed to be close to Putin, was criticised for not mentioning the war when he announced he was handing over "stewardship and care" of the club.

How will the World Cup be affected?

The Czech FA's move puts further pressure on world governing body Fifa to make a decision about the 2022 World Cup play-offs.

"The Czech FA executive committee, staff members and players of the national team agreed it's not possible to play against the Russian national team in the current situation, not even on the neutral venue," a statement read.

"We all want the war to end as soon as possible."

The matches - which would see Russia face Poland then either the Czech Republic or Sweden if they win - are due to be played next month.

On Thursday, Fifa said it would monitor the situation. On Saturday, Poland announced they will boycott their play-off against Russia on 24 March, with captain Robert Lewandowski saying "we can't pretend that nothing is happening".

French Football Federation president Noel le Graet suggested Russia should be banned from the World Cup, telling French media outlet Le Parisien he would "lean towards" the move.external-link

Putin is a blackbelt in judo and was awarded the eighth danexternal-link, one of the sport's highest honours, by the International Judo Federation (IJF) in 2012. He has also co-authored a book titled Judo: History, Theory, Practice.

"In light of the ongoing war conflict in Ukraine, the International Judo Federation announces the suspension of Mr Vladimir Putin's status as Honorary President and Ambassador of the International Judo Federation," the IJF said.

Announcing their move, the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO said: "Just as this war has put a stop of boxing in Ukraine, our organisations will not sanction fights in Russia until further assessment of the situation."

Svitolina asks for more help for Ukraine

Elina Svitolina
Tennis player Elina Svitolina is from Odesa, Ukraine's third biggest city

Svitolina, a former world number three and two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist, is one of Ukraine's most prominent athletes and says her heart "won't stop bleeding" at what she is seeing in home country.

Svitolina is from Odesa - Ukraine's third biggest city - and her family is still in the Black Sea port, which saw an attempt by Russian troops to land there overnight on Sunday.

"It has been a horrible, horrible time for us. My family and friends are there and really shocked. They are hearing bombing and shooting and they are terrified. They don't know what to do," Svitolina, who is currently outside Ukraine, told the BBC.

Svitolina said Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had shown "a lot of courage" and thanked her compatriots who have stayed to fight to defend the nation from Russian attacks.

"I admire those people. They are really big heroes," added Svitolina.

She also urged people around the world to "do as much as possible" on social media or on the streets to support the nation.

"It is important the governments in Europe and around the world see that this is something which is important and matters to people," Svitolina said.

"When you have many people united this is when governments wake up a little bit and start to pay attention. This is when we can get more help for Ukraine."

Fellow Ukrainian player Dayana Yastremska has fled Ukraine for France after being moved out of the country by her parents, who have stayed behind.

Men aged between 18 and 60, including Yastremska's father, are not allowed to leave.

Another player, Sergiy Stakhovsky, said he had signed up to Ukraine's military reserves despite having no previous military experience.

"To be honest with you, me not being there I cannot feel 5% of what people there are feeling. To stay or to leave is very brave," said Svitolina.

"A lot of people are taking weapons to fight for our country; it takes a lot of courage. They are doing everything possible. I can't thank them enough, it takes a lot to do that and defend our country. They are heroes to us."

Other major developments

  • The 2022 Champions League final will be played in Paris after Uefa - European football's governing body - moved the match away from St Petersburg.
  • Uefa also ordered Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams to play their home matches away from the region "until further notice".
  • Uefa is looking to end its major £30m-a-year sponsorship deal with Russian state-run gas giant Gazprom.
  • Russia's Formula 1 Grand Prix, due to take place in Sochi in September, has been cancelled.
  • International sports federations were urged to move or cancel events currently planned in Russia or Belarus by the International Olympic Committee.
  • The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has postponed World Cup 2023 qualifiers between the Netherlands and Russia on 27 February and Great Britain and Belarus on 28 February.
  • Manchester United have terminated their sponsorship deal with Russia's national airline Aeroflot.
  • European football, including Premier League sides, has been showing support at matches.
  • The International Paralympic Committee will hold an executive board meeting on Wednesday before the start of the Beijing 2022 Paralympics on 4 March.
  • The UK government plans to conduct meetings with UK sports bodies early next week to explore what else could be done to intensify Russia's sporting isolation.

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