Uefa must pull Champions League final from Russia, say MPs

PM says Russia has ‘no chance of holding football tournaments’ if Putin invades Ukraine

Boris Johnson to unveil ‘first barrage’ of sanctions against Russia

Senior MPs have called on Uefa to strip Russia of this year’s Champions League final set to be held in St Petersburg, after Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of troops in eastern Ukraine.

Boris Johnson warned as he vowed to swiftly introduce the “first barrage” of UK sanctions against Russia after Moscow recognised separatist regions in the Donbas as independent states.

The prime minister appeared to signal he would back a change of venue for the final, saying in the Commons there was “no chance of holding football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries”.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey called on Mr Johnson to back on international sporting events in Russia – and “push” Uefa for a change in venue for the Champions League venue.

The PM said it was “inconceivable” that major football tournaments could take place if an invasion of Ukraine took place.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries later said Mr Putin should not be allowed to “exploit” events like the Champions League final – and said she would discuss it with “the relevant governing bodies”.

She tweeted: “I have serious concerns about the sporting events due to be held in Russia … We won’t allow president Putin to exploit events on the world stage to legitimise his illegal invasion of Ukraine.”

Conservative MP Julian Knight – chair of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee – is among the senior backbenchers calling for Uefa to think again.

“It’s something that must be considered given this naked act of aggression,” Mr Knight told The Telegraph. “To host such a landmark event as the Russian tanks roll sends out all the wrong messages.”

Tracey Crouch – the former sports minister who led the recent fan-led review of English football – has also called on the governing body to “urgently reconsider” holding the final in St Petersburg.

“Uefa should urgently reconsider the decision to hold the Champions League final in Russia following Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine,” she said.

The final is due to be take place as the Krestovsky Stadium – known as the Gazprom Arena – on 28 May in front of 68,000 European football fans.

Uefa are now holding talks about moving the 2022 final from St Petersburg, although may wait to see how the knock-out stages develop so any venue better suits travelling fans.

The body now sees a contingency plan as essential, The Independent understands – though there aren’t yet any concrete suggestions about venues. It is seen as unlikely, however, that the 2023 final could be brought forward from Istanbul, say, if two English clubs were involved.

Mr Johnson outlined a series of economic sanctions against entities in Russia, hitting five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals, after chairing an early morning emergency meeting of the Cobra committee.

“This is I should stress just the first barrage of UK economic sanctions against Russia because we expect I’m afraid that there is more Russian irrational behaviour to come,” he said.

The prime minister’s warnings came after Moscow ordered Russian troops into two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine, allegedly to carry out “peacekeeping” duties.

The dramatic escalation came after Mr Putin recognised the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the Donbas as independent states.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said the situation in Ukraine was “incredibly serious”, adding: “This is a sovereign state which has now had some of its land effectively annexed from it.”

Fellow cabinet minister Sajid Javid said “you can conclude that the invasion of Ukraine has begun” after the Russian president ordered troops over the border.

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