Nations unite and seek further sporting sanctions against Russia and Belarus

·5-min read

Ministers from 37 nations have joined together to call for further international sporting sanctions on Russia and Belarus following the invasion of Ukraine.

Brokered by the UK, the strongly-worded statement follows a virtual summit convened by the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston on March 3.

Among the signatories are France, Germany, Japan, Australia, Canada and the United States.

“Russia’s unprovoked and unjustifiable war of choice against Ukraine, enabled by the Belarusian government, is abhorrent and a flagrant breach of its international obligations,” the statement read.

“Respect for human rights and peaceful relations between nations form the foundation of international sport.”

The nations called for Russia and Belarus not to be permitted to “host, bid for or be awarded any international sporting events.”

The joint statement continued: “Individual athletes selected by Russia and Belarus, administrators and teams representing the Russian or Belarusian state should be banned from competing in other countries, including those representing bodies, cities or brands that are effectively representing Russia or Belarus, such as major football clubs.

“Wherever possible, appropriate actions should be taken to limit sponsorship and other financial support from entities with links to the Russian or Belarusian states.

“We call on all international sport federations to endorse these principles, and applaud all those that have done so already.”

The decision by the International Paralympic Committee to ban both Russia and Belarus athletes from the Winter Paralympics in Beijing were also welcomed.

“These restrictions should be in place until cooperation under the fundamental principles of international law has become possible again,” the statement added.

“We encourage all international sport organisations and all relevant legal bodies not to sanction athletes, coaches or officials who decide unilaterally to terminate their contracts with Russian, Belarusian or Ukrainian clubs, as well as not to pursue or to sanction sport organisers which decide to ban athletes or teams selected by Russia or Belarus.

“Furthermore, we encourage the international sport community to continue to show its solidarity with the people of Ukraine, including through supporting the continuation of Ukrainian sport where possible.”

Meanwhile, Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak says he does not regret wearing a symbol in support of the invasion of Ukraine on the podium following a World Cup event in Doha on Saturday.

Kuliak attached a letter ‘Z’ to his chest before receiving his bronze medal in the parallel bars, an event won by Ukraine’s Illia Kovtun. The letter has been seen daubed on the sides of Russian tanks and has come to be regarded as a sign of support for the invasion.

The 20-year-old’s move was condemned as “shocking behaviour” by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), which has asked its Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to launch an investigation.

But Kuliak, who faces the prospect of a lengthy ban, was unrepentant on Tuesday, telling Russia Today: “If there was a second chance and I had a choice whether to go out with the letter ‘Z’ on my chest or not, I would do the same.

“I saw it on our military and looked at what this symbol means. It turned out to be ‘for victory’ and ‘for peace’. I just wanted to show my position. As an athlete, I will always fight for victory and play for peace.”

Prior to the event in Doha, the FIG had announced that all Russian gymnasts and officials would be banned from international events from March 7 until further notice, in line with global sporting sanctions against the country.

Elsewhere, Tennis’ governing bodies have united to create the ‘Tennis Plays for Peace’ campaign.

The ATP, WTA, International Tennis Federation and the four grand slams have each donated 100,000 US dollars (just over £75,000) to humanitarian efforts through Global Giving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund and the Ukraine Tennis Federation.

The Wimbledon Foundation has also made donations to the British Red Cross and the Disaster Emergency Committee.

Ribbons in the colours of the Ukraine flag will be distributed to players at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, which begins on Wednesday.

Ukrainian number one Elina Svitolina and recently-retired player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who has returned to Ukraine to join the reserve army, have also produced a short video with a message of hope for their country.

Andy Murray has also pledged significant support, announcing he will donate his prize money for the rest of the year to help children affected by the war.

The father of four, who is an ambassador for Unicef UK, is working with the charity to help provide medical supplies and educational kits.