Putin handed major blow as Russia stripped of hosting another beloved sporting event

UEFA and FIFA suspend Russia from all competitions

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Water sports federation FINA, joining the list of governing bodies taking steps against Moscow over its war in Ukraine, announced Russian swimmers will not compete in this year’s world championship, running from June 18 to July 3 in Budapest, Hungary. It followed the removal of the Russian city of Kazan as the host for the championships’ “Short Course Worlds” (25m), held from December 17 to 22.

The World Championship was held there back in 2015.

FINA said in a statement: “The FINA Bureau met today and confirmed that athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus will not take part in the upcoming 19th FINA World Championships Budapest 2022.

“Following these decisions, FINA was informed by the Russian Swimming Federation of the withdrawal of all Russian aquatics athletes from all FINA events for the rest of this year.

“The FINA Bureau also decided to remove the hosting of the FINA Swimming World Championships 2022 from Kazan. The scheduled dates of 17-22 December 2022 will be maintained, and FINA is currently in discussions with potential hosts to take over the event.”

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The ban extended to athletes from Belarus, whose president, Alexander Lukashenko, shares close ties with Putin.

The authoritarian leader has held onto power after an election widely condemned as rigged in his favour in which he insists he received 80 percent of the vote.

On Saturday he confirmed, once again, his tight relations with Putin.

In an interview with the Japanese television channel TBS, he claimed: “He and I haven’t only met as heads of state, we’re on friendly terms.”

Footage shared by state news agency BelTA showed him saying: “I’m absolutely privy to all his details, as far as possible, both state and personal.”

FINA also said its disciplinary panel has opened a procedure against Russian double Olympic champion Evgeny Rylov for a potential violation of its rules.

Rylov, who won gold in the 100 and 200m backstroke events at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, lost his sponsorship deal with swimwear maker Speedo after attending a rally hosted by Putin

in Moscow last week, where the athlete sported the letter ‘Z’ on his outfit.

The rally commemorated the eighth year of Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea in 2014, which is considered illegal by the Ukrainian government and not recognised in the West.

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The British swimwear maker, confirming it had cut links with Rylov, said: “We condemn the war in Ukraine in the strongest possible way and stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, our athletes and our teammates who have been impacted by the conflict.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the 25-year-old pulled out of this year’s world championships in support of athletes banned from competing under the Russian flag.

Unlike in many other sports, Rylov would at that point still have been able to compete, as FINA remained one of the few governing bodies that were allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutral athletes or neutral teams.

However, Rylov wrote on Instagram: “In support of Russian Paralympians, in support of all Russian athletes who have been removed from international competitions, I refuse to go to the world championship this summer.

“I believe that by losing competition, the development of sport is lost. As sad as it may sound, sport cannot move without decent competitors.”

The swimming federation also withdrew the FINA Order awarded to Putin in 2014. It is granted to Head of States or individuals who have achieved remarkable merit in the world of Aquatics.

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