Ukraine war: Poland refuses to play Russia World Cup qualifying match after Moscow’s invasion

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Poland striker Robert Lewandowski

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Poland’s star striker Robert Lewandowski has backed his country’s refusal to play Russia in a World Cup qualifier next month.

Cezary Kulesza, the president of the Polish football federation, said it was “time to act” following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lewandowski, the nation’s all-time leading scorer, said it was the “right decision”.

“I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues,” the Bayern Munich star said on Twitter. “Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”

Poland is scheduled to play Russia on 24 March in a play-off semi-final for the Qatar World Cup. The winner will play the victor of the Sweden versus the Czech Republic match for a place at the tournament later this year.

Kulesza said Poland was in talks with the Swedish and Czech football authorities to present a common position to FIFA.

Later on Saturday, the Swedish Football Association said it was joining Poland in the protest. It also urged FIFA to cancel matches involving Russia in March.

Russian troops pressed toward Ukraine’s capital on Saturday, after a night of explosions and street fighting that sent Kyiv residents seeking shelter underground.

It was not immediately clear how far Russian troops had advanced. Ukrainian officials reported some success in fending off assaults, but fighting persisted near the capital.

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