Fans banned from Europa Conference League match amid Moldovan fears of Russian coup

Russia has rejected claims of a plot to overthrow the Moldovan government

Harry Latham-Coyle
Tuesday 14 February 2023 16:25 GMT
<p>Partizan Belgrade fans have been told not to travel to Moldova </p>

Partizan Belgrade fans have been told not to travel to Moldova

Partizan Belgrade fans have been banned from travelling to watch their side play Sheriff Tiraspol as tensions escalate in Moldova amid fears Russia may be planning a coup.

Partizan and Sheriff are due to meet in the first leg of their Europa Conference League knockout play-off tie on Thursday in a match that will now be played behind closed doors.

The President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, said on Monday that she feared Russia were preparing an attempt to overthrow her government.

Sandu further suggested that citizens of Russia, Belarus, Montenegro and Serbia may be used as part of the plot, with government official Andrian Keptonar suggesting on television that Serbians may have been attempting to enter Moldova under the guise of football fans.

The country, situated between Ukraine and Romania, had temporarily closed its airspace on Tuesday, and FC Sheriff confirmed that the Moldovan authorities had ordered their match to be played without fans in attendance.

A club statement said: “The Football Federation of Moldova informed FC Sheriff about the decision of the Moldovan authorities to hold the Uefa Conference League play-off match between FC Sheriff and Partizan Belgrade without spectators.

“In this regard, FC Sheriff informs the spectators who have purchased tickets for the match that the club will return the money spent on tickets.”

Uefa officials are in discussions with the two clubs over the situation and released the following statement.

They said: “The UEFA Europa Conference League match between FC Sheriff Tiraspol and FK Partizan scheduled for Thursday 16 February in Chisinau will be played behind closed doors following a decision of the national authorities.

“UEFA remains in contact with the clubs concerned and relevant authorities. We have no further comment to make at this stage.”

Russia rejected angrily on Tuesday to the Moldovan president’s claims about an alleged plot by Moscow to overthrow her government. Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, dismissed Sandu’s claims as “absolutely unfounded and unsubstantiated.”

“They are built in the spirit of classical techniques that are often used by the United States, other Western countries and Ukraine,” Zakharova said. “First, accusations are made with reference to purportedly classified intelligence information that cannot be verified, and then they are used to justify their own illegal actions.”

The Europa Conference League match had been relocated to the Moldovan capital of Chisinau from Tiraspol, which is located in Transnistria.

The game has been moved from Stadionul Sheriff to the Moldovan capital, Chisinau

The self-declared independent region, recognised internationally as part of Moldova, has had a more than 30-year ceasefire with Sandu’s country after a war that followed the fall of the Soviet Union.

Reports in Moldova suggested that 12 Partizan fans had been blocked from entering Chisinau on Monday night.

The Serbian capital club said that it was working to ensure a “smooth stay” for the club’s players and officials in Moldova, but urged fans not to travel.

“Partizan informs the public that the Football Association of Moldova, on the order of the Security Service of Moldova, has made a decision that the match will be played behind closed doors,” a statement confirmed.

“In this regard, FK Partizan, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, will undertake all security measures for the smooth stay of the team and representatives of the club in Moldova.

“We inform all Partizan fans that entry to Moldova is not possible, as well as attendance at the match, and we ask you not to travel.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in