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Russia holds first talks with UEFA to end exile from European football

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Russia embarked on the slow and difficult return to European football on Tuesday as talks with UEFA began.

Russian Football Union vice-president Aleksandr Alaev declined to comment as he left after three hours of face-to-face talks. They were the first since Russia pulled out of a threat last month to leave UEFA and seek to join the Asian Football Confederation.

Russian teams have been banned from UEFA and FIFA competitions since the country invaded Ukraine and there is currently no way to reverse these decisions, which have been upheld by the highest court in the country. sport.

National teams including Poland, Switzerland and Albania had refused to play their scheduled matches against Russia days after the invasion last February.

When the bans imposed by UEFA and FIFA were challenged in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, judges agreed that the consequences of letting Russian teams play “would be irreparable and chaotic” for the smooth running of the competitions.

Russian teams have been barred from trying to qualify for the men’s and women’s World Cups, the 2022 European Women’s Championship they qualified for, as well as European youth and club competitions.

UEFA also ended sponsorship deals with Russian state energy company Gazprom, moved the 2022 Champions League final from Zenit Saint Petersburg’s stadium and banned the club from the Champions League group stage this season.

With football on lockdown, Olympic and sports officials around the world held conference calls last week to explore ways – all of them complicated – to help Russian athletes and teams get to qualifying events for the Games soon. Paris Olympics in 2024.

The International Olympic Committee has an executive board meeting on Wednesday that is expected to discuss its position on Russia 18 months before the opening ceremony in Paris. The IOC advised sports bodies to exclude Russia from the organization and the competition last February.

UEFA declined to comment on Tuesday’s meeting with RFU officials Alaev and Maxim Mitrofanov, the general secretary who is a former CEO of Zenit.

On Wednesday in Nyon, UEFA has a meeting of its executive committee which includes RFU President Alexander Dyukov and Ukrainian Football Federation President Andriy Pavelko. It was unclear whether the two will attend in person.

UEFA confirmed last year that Russia would not take part in the Euro 2024 qualifiers which start in March, although they have yet to withdraw another showpiece game from the country. Kazan is still on the list to host the Super Cup game in August between the Champions League and Europa League winners.

Additional reports by AP.

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