Ukraine crisis: Everton suspend ties with Alisher Usmanov’s USM company, Lokomotiv Moscow boss resigns in protest

Everton have suspended commercial ties with Alisher Usmanov’s companies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

he Uzbekistan-born billionaire is founder of private Russian holding company USM and has had his assets frozen as part of sanctions imposed by the European Union in response to Russia’s ongoing attack.

Everton owner Farhad Moshiri is chairman of the board of directors at USM Holdings, which has sponsored Everton’s training ground since agreeing an initial five-year deal in 2017. It also has an option on naming rights for the Toffees’ new stadium – a deal worth £30million to the club.

MegaFon is among USM’s businesses and Everton Women signed a multi-year principal partnership deal with the telecommunications operator in October 2020, when Yota – part of the MegaFon Group – was added to the sleeve.

Branding is set to be removed from Goodison Park and the Finch Farm training base after the Premier League club confirmed the immediate suspension of agreements with the three companies.

An Everton statement read: “Everyone at Everton remains shocked and saddened by the appalling events unfolding in Ukraine.

“This tragic situation must end as soon as possible, and any further loss of life must be avoided.

“The players, coaching staff and everyone working at Everton is providing full support to our player Vitalii Mykolenko and his family and will continue to do so.

“The club can confirm that it has suspended with immediate effect all commercial sponsorship arrangements with the Russian companies USM, Megafon and Yota.”

Ukraine international Mykolenko joined Everton from Dynamo Kyiv in January.

The 22-year-old full-back hit out at Russia captain Artem Dzyuba and his international team-mates on Tuesday for their silence over the invasion of Ukraine.

In a post on Instagram in his native language, Mykolenko said: “Whilst you remain silent b**** along with your s***head football team-mates, peaceful civilians are being killed in Ukraine.

“You will be locked in your dungeon for the rest of your life and most importantly the lives of your kids. And I’m glad.”

Mykolenko’s post came the day after FIFA and UEFA suspended Russia from all competitions.

Meanwhile, Lokomotiv Moscow’s manager Markus Gisdol has resigned in protest from his position at the Russian Premier League side in protest against Russia’s war with Ukraine, but the club insisted he had in fact been sacked.

In a statement published by German newspaper Bild, Gisdol said he had been forced to take action having witnessed what is going on in Ukraine.

“I cannot pursue my calling in a country whose leader is responsible for a war of aggression in the middle of Europe,” the 52-year-old said. “That is not in line with my values, which is why I have resigned from my position as coach with immediate effect.

“I can’t stand on the training ground in Moscow, train the players, demand professionalism and a few kilometres away orders are given that bring great suffering to an entire people. That is my personal decision and I am absolutely convinced of it.”

His club, however, took to Twitter to say that Gisdol had been dismissed.

“Markus Gisdol was dismissed from the post of head coach of FC Lokomotiv. The club and the team are working as usual and are concentrating on achieving the maximum results in the upcoming matches,” Lokomotiv said.

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German coach Markus Gisdol quit his job as coach of Russian soccer club Lokomotiv Moscow in protest at Russia's invasion of Ukraine German coach Markus Gisdol quit his job as coach of Russian soccer club Lokomotiv Moscow in protest at Russia's invasion of Ukraine

German coach Markus Gisdol quit his job as coach of Russian soccer club Lokomotiv Moscow in protest at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

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German coach Markus Gisdol quit his job as coach of Russian soccer club Lokomotiv Moscow in protest at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

German coach Gisdol, who had previously spent his whole playing and coaching career in his homeland, most recently with Cologne, had been in charge for 12 matches.

The move came a day after FIFA and UEFA jointly suspended Russian teams from all international football, meaning Spartak Moscow, Russia’s only side left in European competition, will no longer compete in the Europa League.

Lokomotiv were also in the Europa League but finished bottom of their group.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said it had been a difficult time for Ukraine’s Oleksandr Zinchenko following Russia’s invasion of his country but playing football was the best thing for the 25-year-old defender.

A tearful Zinchenko was an unused substitute in City’s 1-0 Premier League victory over Everton last weekend but returned to captain the team in Tuesday’s 2-0 FA Cup win at Peterborough after being handed the armband by regular skipper Fernandinho.

“Our captain decided to give the armband to him, to show how important the situation is,” Guardiola told ITV Sport before the game. “We are all at the club behind this gesture and behind my captain, who represents his country.”

Guardiola said Zinchenko had received plenty of support.

“He got not just (support from fans), but all around the world, the UK, about this insane situation we’re living in right now,” Guardiola added.

PARALYMPICS

Athletes from Russia and Belarus will be allowed to compete in the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games which begin on Friday.

The governing body of the International Paralympic Committee announced their decision this afternoon.

The athletes from Russia and Belarus must complete as neutrals under the Paralympic flag and their results will not be included in the medal table.

“The RPC (Russian Paralympic Committee) and NPC Belarus will participate as neutrals at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games,” an IPC statement read.

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Torchbearer He Zihao poses for a photo at the Temple of Heaven after a ceremony for the flame gathering and start of the torch relay of the 2022 Winter Paralympics at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Photo: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan Torchbearer He Zihao poses for a photo at the Temple of Heaven after a ceremony for the flame gathering and start of the torch relay of the 2022 Winter Paralympics at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Photo: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

Torchbearer He Zihao poses for a photo at the Temple of Heaven after a ceremony for the flame gathering and start of the torch relay of the 2022 Winter Paralympics at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Photo: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

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Torchbearer He Zihao poses for a photo at the Temple of Heaven after a ceremony for the flame gathering and start of the torch relay of the 2022 Winter Paralympics at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Photo: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

“They will compete under the Paralympic flag and not be included in the medal table.”

The IPC also announced they will host an extraordinary general assembly in 2022 to vote on whether to make compliance with the Olympic Truce a membership requirement and whether to suspend or terminate the membership of the Russian and Belarus Paralympic Committees.

The IPC also announced that they would not hold any events in Russia or Belarus until further notice.

The Chinese government was opposed to banning the Russian and Belarus athletes from the Games, but it remains to be seen how other nations react.

Yesterday, Paralympics Ireland called on the IPC to ‘stronger consider’ excluding athletes from Russia and Belarus from the Games in protest at the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The IPC will be left in a invidious position if the Ukraine team is unable to participate in the Games while the Russian and Belarus athletes are free to compete.

TENNIS

Former tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who has joined the fight against the Russian invasion of his home country Ukraine, admits sporting sanctions alone will not stop Vladimir Putin’s army.

Stakhovsky, who was once ranked 31 in the world and defeated Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2013, is among a number of athletes who have travelled to Ukraine to join the resistance effort.

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Former tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who has joined the fight against the Russian invasion of his home country Ukraine, admits sporting sanctions alone will not stop Vladimir Putins army Former tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who has joined the fight against the Russian invasion of his home country Ukraine, admits sporting sanctions alone will not stop Vladimir Putins army

Former tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who has joined the fight against the Russian invasion of his home country Ukraine, admits sporting sanctions alone will not stop Vladimir Putins army

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Former tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who has joined the fight against the Russian invasion of his home country Ukraine, admits sporting sanctions alone will not stop Vladimir Putins army

“The support and even the restrictions and sanctions of the Russian federation in terms of sport, culture, is great, it’s working. I’m very sure it’s working,” Stakhovsky said.

“But it doesn’t stop him from what he’s doing and somebody needs to put a stop to him.”

Stakhovsky was speaking to Good Morning Britain dressed in army fatigues in a stark reminder of the desperate situation in Ukraine.

He added: “I would never in my life believe that they would invade on a full scale. But that’s what Russia’s agenda is – to deliver chaos and instability in Europe.

“We are being punished because we want a better life and are reaching out to Europe.

“I am not really sure we can have a person in today’s world who has the capability of nuclear weapons. We are not sure what he is going to do next.”

Tennis’ governing bodies will allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete under a neutral flag but both countries have been banned from international competition, including the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup.

The Kremlin Cup, a joint ATP and WTA tournament due to be held in October, has also been suspended.

PARALYMPICS

FORMULA ONE

Formula One has opposed the wishes of the International Olympic Committee by allowing Russian and Belarusian drivers to continue racing.

On a day when athletics followed FIFA and UEFA – who announced that all Russian national teams and clubs would be indefinitely barred from their competitions, by banning athletes of those countries from all major events – F1’s governing body, the FIA, confirmed that Nikita Mazepin could race on.

Mazepin, the grid’s sole Russian driver, will be permitted to race under a neutral flag, “subject to specific commitment and adherence to the FIA’s principles of peace and political neutrality, until further notice”. Mazepin’s Haas team said: “At this time we decline to comment”.

Haas removed the branding of its title partner Uralkali for the final day of the pre-season test in Barcelona last week. The Russian fertiliser company is part-owned by oligarch Dmitry Mazepin, Nikita’s father.

The governing body’s decision came after a crisis meeting of the World Motor Sport Council, chaired by FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem on Tuesday.

Earlier, former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat, said it would be “unfair” to ban Russians from competing because of the war in Ukraine.

Ben Sulayem, who replaced Jean Todt as FIA president in December, said: “As you know, the FIA is watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and I hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation.

“We condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and our thoughts are with all those suffering as a result of the events in Ukraine.”

F1 last week cancelled the Russian Grand Prix which was due to take place on September 25. The reason, following Tuesday’s meeting, was cited as Force Majeure.

The Russian and Belarusian anthems will not be played at any event, while representatives from Russian and Belarusian FIA Members have been instructed “to step aside temporarily from their roles”.

Ben Sulayem continued: “I want to thank the Council members for their prompt action in deciding these measures in the interests of sport and peace.

“We stand in solidarity with Leonid Kostyuchenko, the President of the Federation Automobile d’Ukraine (FAU) and the wider FIA family in the country.

“The measures taken today recognise the authority of the FAU in Ukraine and are also aligned with the recommendations recently made by the International Olympic Committee.

“We are in active discussions with our members as we continue to extend our compassion and support in their time of need. We sincerely hope for a peaceful resolution to their intolerable hardship.”

The announcement arrived after Ukrainian sporting figures vowed to fight for their country.

BOXING

Boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko, a former three-weight world champion, has joined the Ukraine territorial forces, while WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight world champion Oleksandyr Usyk has been pictured holding a weapon.

Vitali Klitschko, the former WBC and WBO champion, is the mayor of Kyiv and has remained in the capital despite the onslaught from Russian president Putin’s forces.

WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury was quizzed about his contemporaries at a press conference ahead of his fight with Dillian Whyte.

He said: “I would be the first one to join if England got involved, or America.

“I would be first in line for the job – my dad would as well, and all the boys. We would all sign up to defend our country. They are doing what they need to do.”

ATHLETICS

All athletes, support personnel and officials from Russia and Belarus – which is assisting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – are barred from World Athletics Series events including this summer’s World Championships in Eugene.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said: “Sport has to step up and join these efforts to end this war and restore peace. We cannot and should not sit this one out.”

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said sport could not “sit out” from moves to isolate Russia over its invasion of Ukraine (Mike Egerton/PA)Russian athletes have been forced to qualify as Authorised Neutral Athletes (ANAs) since the national federation was suspended over serious doping offences in 2015, but sportspeople from the country who had received ANA status for 2022 will now be banned.

Britain’s athletics head coach Christian Malcolm supported the World Athletics decision and said: “This is far, far bigger than sport. And it’s great to see that a lot of people around the world are coming together to be able to support those who are in this vulnerable situation.”

The International Paralympic Committee is meeting on Wednesday to discuss whether to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Beijing Winter Games, which officially open on Friday.

The IPC did confirm that a full Ukraine team of 20 athletes and nine guides would be travelling to China for the Games.

CYCLING

The international cycling union, the UCI, announced that all events due to take place in Russia or Belarus in 2022 have been withdrawn from the calendar, while all Russian and Belarusian teams will be barred from racing.

Individual cyclists from those countries, though, will be allowed to carry on competing providing they ride for a team based outside Russia or Belarus and no reference to either country is displayed.

RUGBY LEAGUE

The International Rugby League and European Rugby League have acted on the IOC advice and announced that Russian national teams were banned from their events.

SWIMMING

British Swimming has said it will not send a team to this year’s World Short Course Championships or to the 2024 European Championships, with both due to be held in the Russian city of Kazan.

The IOC recommended last week that international sports federations – such as swimming’s world governing body FINA – should relocate or cancel any events due to be held in Russia.

TRIATHLON

World Triathlon, meanwhile, has banned all Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from its events.

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