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Russia moves to impose its own sports federations in occupied Ukraine regions



Russia’s State Duma on Wednesday approved the first reading of a bill that would put sports bodies in occupied regions of Ukraine under the jurisdiction of its own sporting federations.

The draft law would apply to the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia that Russia claimed as its own territory last year in a move rejected as illegal by most countries, but which it only partly occupies.

It is part of a pattern of actions by Russia to impose its laws, language, culture, currency and education system in territory seized from Ukraine since its February 2022 invasion.

The law envisages that existing sports federations in the four regions will become branches of the corresponding all-Russian federations.

Sports titles and grades issued to athletes and coaches by Russian-installed officials in the occupied regions will be recognised by Russian authorities or equated with similar titles and grades that are in force in Russia.


If this bill is adopted at further readings in parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin, it would mean that athletes from the occupied regions would take part in all-Russian sports competitions, and their funding would come from the Russian budget.

The best known sports team in eastern Ukraine is the soccer side Shakhtar Donetsk. It is still part of the Ukrainian league, playing home matches at a variety of locations across the country since being forced to abandon its Donbas Arena stadium – one of the venues for the 2012 European Championship – when Russian proxies began fighting Ukrainian forces in 2014.


Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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