NATO puts 100 fighter planes on alert and No Champions League final in Russia

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo lashed out hard at Russia at the start of the Chamber’s plenary session, according to local media. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine is an attack on freedom, De Croo said. “Domestically, meanwhile, we are taking the necessary precautions to additionally protect our critical infrastructure.”

“What is at stake today is nothing less than peace and security in Europe,” says De Croo. Russia launched a military offensive against neighboring Ukraine last night, after weeks of building up its force along that country’s borders.

The West is reacting angrily to that invasion. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo also lashes out at Moscow. “In recent months and years, many brave Russian citizens have taken to the streets against the autocracy and kleptocracy of the Russian president. They were harshly beaten down, poisoned, and murdered. Today Putin is extending his aggression to 45 million Ukrainians,” he spoke according to Belga. “What bothers Putin is that Ukrainians are free citizens. It bothers him that Ukraine is a free country. A country that makes its own choices. And yes, a country that looks to the West. Putin’s attack is, therefore, an attack on freedom.”

According to De Croo, the Kremlin is currently focusing only on Ukraine, and there is “no element that confirms that Russia is also targeting NATO countries.” That said, a number of NATO countries around Ukraine feel threatened and have invoked NATO treaty Article 4, De Croo indicated. On that basis, the first consultations took place Thursday morning, followed by consultations with the heads of state and government of the 30 NATO member states on Friday.

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Measures at home

In any case, Belgium will work with allies “to take all steps to increase deterrence and defense,” the prime minister said, although the West wants to avoid further escalation of the conflict. “Our actions will always be preventive, proportional, and non-escalating,” De Croo said. “Domestically, meanwhile, we are taking the necessary precautions to additionally protect our critical infrastructure.”

In addition, there are sanctions. The European Council will meet in a special session on Thursday night to approve tougher sanctions, after a first sanctions package was already imposed on Monday.

That will be “the toughest sanctions package in the history of the Union,” De Croo said, aimed at weakening Russia’s industrial and military complex. “The time of graduated sanctions is over. If we do not do this, Putin will not stop after he has subjugated Ukraine.”

According to the prime minister, the most important thing now is to form a tight bloc with European partners and NATO allies. “We must hold each other firmly in the West in the coming days and months. And we must use this unity to stop the great injustice being done to Ukraine. The only way out of this crisis is the immediate cessation of violence.”

More than 100 fighter jets on alert

Ukraine is not a member state of NATO, but borders several member states. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed at a press conference Thursday that NATO has already significantly increased its military presence in the alliance’s east in recent weeks. Member states have sent thousands of soldiers, and the alliance is already deploying more than 100 aircraft and 120 ships. To get the latest stories, install our app here.

No Champions League final in Russia

The sports world is also reacting to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to Sky News, UEFA will announce tomorrow that the Champions League final will not take place in St Petersburg. In addition, Oleksandr Zinchenko lashed out at Russian President Putin on Instagram this morning. “I hope you die in the most painful way.” Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Football Association (UAF) decided to suspend the competition for the time being.

Tomorrow at 10:00, UEFA is planning an extraordinary meeting of the Executive Committee to “assess the situation and make all necessary decisions.” In all likelihood, among other things, it will be discussed how to proceed with the Russian clubs in Europe. Zenit will visit the Spanish Real Betis tonight. Spartak Moscow has been directly qualified for the next round of the Europa League and will normally only be in action in two weeks. The Ukrainian clubs have been eliminated in Europe.

Another main item on the agenda tomorrow is the Champions League final. Under normal circumstances, it will be played in the Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg, the stadium of Zenit. The European Parliament has already asked UEFA to remove the final from Russia. It also called for severing ties with gas magnate Gazprom, one of UEFA’s main sponsors. The company sponsors, among other things, the Champions League.

What about the play-offs for the World Cup? In exactly one month, Russia and Ukraine will play in the play-off round for the last World Cup tickets. Russia receives Poland and Ukraine makes the move to Scotland. It remains to be seen whether Lewandowski and co will travel to Russia.

Sebastian Vettel

The four-time Formula 1 world champion no longer wants to race in Russia: “My opinion is that I should not go to Russia to race, I will not go. I think it’s wrong to race in that country. I pity the innocent people who lose their lives and are killed for stupid reasons.” The German didn’t mince his words. F1 themselves are monitoring the situation for the time being, but have not yet canceled the Russian Grand Prix, which will be held in September.

Roman Yaremchuk

After his goal last night in the Champions League match against Ajax, Yaremchuk celebrated by taking off his jersey and displaying Ukraine’s coat of arms, the Tryzub. It seems that the celebration is about to end. UEFA does not allow the display of political symbols. According to the regulations, he even faces the possibility of a suspension. “But the club is behind me and supports me,” said the Ukrainian. “I wanted to support my country. The situation there scares me. I had thought about it carefully.”

Fedor Smolov

Dinamo Moscow’s Russian striker condemns his country’s invasion of Ukraine. He announced this in a post on Instagram. The caption is clear: “No to war!!!” followed by a broken heart and the flag of Ukraine.

Oleksandr Zinchenko

The Ukrainian full-back of Manchester City already made himself heard on Tuesday by saying that he cannot sit still, while the whole world is worried about his country. This morning Zinchenko went one step further. He posted a photo of Russian President Putin on Instagram with the caption: “I hope you die the most painful way.” Instagram has since deleted the post. Not entirely to Zinchenko’s own liking. The City player claims that Instagram is censoring.

Jito Kok

The Dutch national men’s basketball team will play a qualifying match in and against Russia at 4 pm. The match will be played in Perm, about 2000 kilometers from Ukraine. The Dutch international Jito Kok, player of Spirou Charleroi, is injured and has not traveled to Russia. Still, he made himself heard on Twitter.

David Neres

The Brazilian wing attacker exchanged Ajax for the Ukrainian Shakhtar Donetsk last winter mercato. Traditionally, many Brazilians play at Shakhtar. Together with his compatriots, David Neres is now trapped in a hotel in Kyiv. In a video on Instagram, Neres and his buddies ask for help from the Brazilian government. “The borders are closed, and there are no flights. We ask for support from the Brazilian government.” Because the Ukrainian competition is being shut down, Neres has to wait a little longer for his debut in the shirt of Shakhtar. However, that won’t be his main concern at the moment.

Ruslan Malinovskyi

The Ukrainian Ruslan Malinovskyi is also not indifferent. With a tweet, the Atalanta midfielder calls for prayers for his country. Tonight Malinovskyi will visit Olympiakos in the Europa League with Atalanta. The Italians defend their 2-1 win from the first leg in Piraeus.

Mircea Lucescu

Despite a few air raids in the capital, the Romanian trainer of the Ukrainian top club Dinamo Kyiv is not deterred and will remain in Ukraine for the time being. Lucescu lives in Koncha-Zaspa, close to the Dinamo training center in the south of Kyiv. “I am not a coward. I don’t want to be a negative example for my players.” To get the latest stories, install our app here.

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