The Ukrainian Football Association has sent an official letter to FIFA, UEFA and European national associations asking them to reconsider the decision of the UEFA Executive Committee to re-admit Russian U-17 teams to international competitions.
"This decision is completely unexpected, given the strong position of UEFA and FIFA since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, according to which all Russian teams were suspended from any competitions under the auspices of these organisations. At the time, UEFA made it clear that this decision was necessary to ensure its statutory objectives of promoting football in Europe in a spirit of peace and organising and conducting football tournaments in a manner that respects the health of the players. The presidents of both organisations expressed their "full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine" and their hope that the situation in Ukraine "will improve significantly and quickly so that football can once again become a vector of unity and peace among people".
However, as the whole world knows, the suffering of the Ukrainian people has only increased since then and continues to this day. While we fully support any action to help children, this decision appears to be blind to the suffering of Ukrainian children. Russian soldiers continue to kill and abduct Ukrainian children and destroy civilian infrastructure, including thousands of schools and hundreds of stadiums and sports facilities, thus destroying the ability of Ukrainian children not only to play sports but also to live a normal life.
Since the start of the full-scale invasion, hundreds of children - from newborns to teenagers - have been killed, thousands injured, and more than 3,000 cases of crimes against children, including sexual violence, have been opened. At least 19,000 children were abducted from Ukraine and taken to Russia. For those who survived and stayed behind, rockets and shells continue to fly overhead, and they are forced to spend hours in cold underground bomb shelters and have very few opportunities to enjoy the freedom enjoyed by players on Russian U-17 teams who live and train in warm, safe and peaceful cities.
We emphasise that this war violates the rights of Ukrainian children, not Russian children, whose only problem is the lack of experience of participating in international competitions in Europe.
In the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), during the hearing of the appeal of the Russian football union, UEFA made it clear that, given the general public opinion on the Russian invasion, "regardless of age, UEFA considers it irresponsible to put Russian athletes in a position where they may face significant negative reactions, not only physical but also in other forums, including social media". As the situation has only worsened over the past 18 months, UEFA's reasoning is that the latest decision is "irresponsible".
In the CAS, UEFA also made it clear that the refusal of member associations to play against the Russian national team threatens the integrity of the competition and that the exclusion of Russian teams was "necessary" to achieve statutory objectives.
In the wake of the latest decision, the Ukrainian Football Association has appealed to all UEFA member associations to join the boycott of any matches against Russian teams. Such a boycott has already been officially announced by the football associations of England, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Romania. Several other countries - Switzerland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Estonia - have publicly stated that they are waiting for further explanations from UEFA. UEFA's own argumentation is that its statutory objectives require that the recent decision be reversed.
We firmly believe that football should always be on the side of peace, tolerance and justice between countries in any competition.
We call on FIFA and UEFA to stand up to the violence and arbitrariness of the Russian Federation. We will firmly adhere to this position until the war in Ukraine ends and peace is restored on the European continent," the letter reads.