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UEFA Champions League final out of Russia

UEFA will no longer host the Champions League final in St. Petersburg after Russia launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine on Thursday, the Associated Press has learned.

An extraordinary meeting of the UEFA executive committee will be held on Friday to discuss the geopolitical crisis and when officials are set to confirm taking the May 28 showpiece game out of Russia, a person with knowledge of the process said on Thursday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.

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UEFA did publicly rebuke Russia and said it was dealing with the “situation with the utmost seriousness and urgency” while confirming the meeting for 0900 GMT on Friday.

“UEFA shares the international community’s significant concern for the security situation developing in Europe and strongly condemns the ongoing Russian military invasion in Ukraine,” the governing body said in a statement.

“We remain resolute in our solidarity with the football community in Ukraine and stand ready to extend our hand to the Ukrainian people.”

As Russia’s threats toward Ukraine had grown through the week, the British government and fan groups had already called for the final not to be play in St. Petersburg, where the stadium is sponsored by Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom.

The company is also the main sponsor of Schalke, but the German second-division club said on Thursday that the Gazprom logo was being removed from its jerseys.

A senior Gazprom executive also quit the supervisory board of the Gelsenkirchen-based club after being a target of U.S. sanctions. Matthias Warnig is CEO of the newly built but never operated Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 2 pipeline which is a multibillion-dollar project of Gazprom and European companies.

Critics said Schalke was used to popularize Gazprom in Germany as it pushed to construct the gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea, which bypassed Ukraine. Gazprom has been a sponsor since 2006 and provided the cash that fueled a run to the Champions League semifinals in 2011.

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