Ukrainian club chief calls for removal of Russia from FIFA

DOHA, March 29 (Reuters) - The head of one of Ukraine's top soccer clubs has called for Russia's football federation to be removed from FIFA and UEFA membership.

Serhiy Palkin, CEO of Shakhtar Donetsk, winners of four of the last five Ukrainian championships, told Reuters that Russia should be removed from sports organisations in the same manner as apartheid-era South Africa.

Russian clubs and teams are currently suspended from competing in international competition but the Russian Football Union (RFS) remains a full member of FIFA and UEFA.

FIFA holds its annual congress in Doha on Thursday. Ukraine's federation is not expected to be able to attend the gathering but the RFS is likely to be present.

"I would like to urge UEFA and FIFA to take a step further and cancel or suspend Russia's membership in their ranks," Palkin told Reuters in a text message.

"In the 70s, South Africa was expelled from FIFA for the policy of apartheid, and Russia should be expelled for the policy of genocide of Ukrainians and the bloody war they unleashed in our homeland," he added.

"Sport has always been used by Russians as propaganda for their ideology. If this ideology threatens peaceful coexistence today, Russia must be fully isolated until it changes its policy of destroying every living creature," said the Shakhtar official.

Since the outbreak of conflict in the Donbas region in 2014, the Donetsk club has been forced to play their home games Lviv, Kharkiv and Kyiv. The Ukrainian league is currently suspended due to the war.

"The club and all Ukrainians need peace, it’s necessary to stop this crazy war," said Palkin.

"Ukrainians are fighting and the whole world has seen that these days we have been defending not only our liberty and independence, but also the freedom and values of the democratic world.

"However, the only way to defeat Russian aggression is to combine our efforts. It’s necessary to tighten the sanctions against Russia in all possible directions. It is important to limit Russia's resource and information capabilities so that they feel isolated and stop.

"What can we do in the field of sports? To isolate Russia from participation in international sports competitions, and this, by and large, has already been done. But I would like to urge UEFA and FIFA to take a step further," he added.

FIFA and UEFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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