UEFA insist there are ‘no plans’ to move this season’s Champions League final from St Petersburg amid the threat of war between Russia and Ukraine.
UK health secretary Sajid Javid said on Tuesday morning that Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine after Russian tanks, armoured vehicles and trucks were seen rolling into eastern regions overnight.
Putin ordered his troops to carry out ‘peacekeeping’ duties in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions after he recognised them as independent on Monday, another act that prompted tensions to escalate.
Western states, including the UK, USA and United Nations, are now lining up to slap sanctions on key Russian figures and businesses but there is no sign that Putin is willing to back down.
The Champions League final, European football’s showpiece match, is due to take place at the Krestovsky Stadium in the Russian city of St Petersburg on May 28.
But European football’s governing body, UEFA, have insisted they are not currently considering taking the honour of hosting their most prestigious match away from Russia just yet.
A statement read: ‘UEFA is constantly and closely monitoring the situation. At present, there are no plans to change the venue.’
UEFA say there are ‘no plans’ to move this season’s Champions League final from St Petersburg
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin (left) is not currently considering move the final from Russia after Vladimir Putin ordered his forces into the Ukraine’s east on Monday night
Russia last hosted the Champions League final in 2008 when Manchester United beat Chelsea on penalties at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
The nation also hosted the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which was won by France, and St Petersburg welcomed a select number of matches at last summer’s delayed Euro 2020.
Ukraine held the Champions League final more recently, however, with Real Madrid defeating Liverpool 3-1 in Kiev back in 2018.
As Sportsmail reported on Monday night, UEFA could be left with no choice but to move the game.
Wembley could be a possible replacement venue, especially if two English teams make it all the way to the final this year, according to reports.
Hosting the Champions League final could reportedly hand the selected city a financial boost of more than £60m.
Last year’s final between Chelsea and Manchester City was also moved with the venue switching from Istanbul to Porto.
Covid-19 restrictions saw Turkey placed on the UK’s red list, preventing supporters from travelling to the country.
A tank drives along a street after Putin ordered the deployment of Russian troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine
A tank, believed to be Russian, is spotted on a street near the city of Donetsk in separatist-held regions of eastern Ukraine
UEFA’s current stance comes after Javid, the UK government’s health secretary, warned on Tuesday morning that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has already begun.
A column of armoured vehicles was spotted in Donetsk, the main city of one of the two so-called ‘republics’, in the early hours of this morning. No insignia were visible on the vehicles, but there is little doubt they are Russian forces deployed on Putin’s orders.
At the same time, Ukraine said heavy shelling broke out along nearly all 250 miles of its frontline with the breakaway provinces, leaving two of its soldiers dead and 12 injured in a major escalation in violence.
Javid told Sky News: ‘We are waking up to a very dark day in Europe and it’s clear from what we have already seen and found out today that the Russians, President Putin, has decided to attack the sovereignty of Ukraine and its territorial integrity.
‘We have seen that he has recognised these breakaway eastern regions in Ukraine and from the reports we can already tell that he has sent in tanks and troops.
‘From that you can conclude that the invasion of Ukraine has begun.’
Military vehicles drive along a street after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of Russian troops
A military truck drives along a street after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of Russian troops
Before Putin’s order, world leaders including Joe Biden and Boris Johnson had made it clear that any Russian incursion, no matter how limited, into Ukrainian territory would be considered a fresh invasion and spark an unprecedented flurry of sanctions.
But action overnight was limited. Joe Biden banned all new US trade with the breakaway regions and opened the door to sanctions individuals based there – but stopped far short of the ‘swift and decisive’ response that had been threatened. White House spokesman Jen Psaki promised more sanctions will follow later today.
There was also no immediate action from the UK. Boris Johnson, who has been outspoken in his support for Ukraine to this point, is expected to brief the House of Commons shortly having previously threatened to take action against Russian expats if an invasion went ahead. The EU is also expected to levy sanctions.
Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, gave a 2am address to the nation in which he vowed to resist Russia’s attempts to break up the country.
He declared: ‘We are not afraid of anyone or anything. We don’t owe anyone anything. And we won’t give anything to anyone.’