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UKRAINE

Sweden join Poles in boycotting Russia in World Cup play-offs: Federation

Sweden will not play Russia in the 2022 World Cup play-offs because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the football federation said on Saturday.

Sweden's midfielder Albin Ekdal reacts during football match
Sweden's midfielder Albin Ekdal reacts during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification group B football match between Spain and Sweden, at La Cartuja Stadium in Seville, on November 14th, 2021. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

Sweden would have to beat the Czech Republic and Russia overcome Poland for them to face each other on March 29th in Russia.

“Whatever Fifa decide, we will not play against Russia in March,” Karl-Erik Nilsson, president of the federation said in a statement.

Earlier on Saturday, the Poles said they would not play the Russians in Moscow — which hosted the World Cup final only four years ago — on March 24th for the same reason.

The Polish and Swedish federations had issued a statement along with the Czechs on Thursday — the day the invasion began — demanding FIFA play the matches away from Russia.

Fifa did not react to the latest Polish move on Saturday when approached by AFP.

On Thursday, Fifa president Gianni Infantino had said they hoped the “situation (The conflict between Ukraine and Russia) will be resolved by then” but they could take a decision at “any moment.”

In a separate development, the Swedish government said they were going to try and persuade the other 27 European Union states to impose a blanket sporting ban on Russia for “as long as the invasion of Ukraine lasts”.

“The most important thing is that the Russian aggression ceases,” said Swedish Sports Minister Anders Ygeman in a statement.

“If the EU decides on a sporting boycott, that will help achieve this target.”

The Swedes are proposing a boycott of all competitions being hosted in Russia and further that no Russian athlete can compete in the European Union.

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NORD STREAM

Sweden detects fourth leak at Nord Stream pipelines in Baltic Sea

A fourth leak has been detected in undersea pipelines running from Russia to Europe, the Swedish Coast Guard said Thursday, after pipeline explosions earlier this week in the Danish and Swedish economic zones, in suspected sabotage.

Sweden detects fourth leak at Nord Stream pipelines in Baltic Sea

“There are two leaks on the Swedish side and two leaks on the Danish side,” a Swedish Coast Guard official said, after three leaks were confirmed earlier this week on the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea.

The official added that the two leaks on the Swedish side are “close to each other”.

The Swedish coast guard could not immediately say why the latest leak only appeared days after the initial breaches. 

Media reported that the latest leak was detected at the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, but the coast guard did not confirm this. 

Sweden had previously reported a leak on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline northeast of Bornholm, while Denmark has confirmed a leak on Nord Stream 2 to the southeast of the island, and another to the northeast above Nord Stream 1.

The vast leaks cause significant bubbling at the surface of the sea several hundred metres wide, making it impossible to immediately inspect the structures. 

Suspicions of sabotage emerged after the leaks were detected. Moscow denied it was behind the explosions, as did the United States, saying Moscow’s suggestion it would damage the pipeline was “ridiculous”. 

The UN Security Council will meet Friday to discuss the incident.

The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which link Russia to Germany, have been at the centre of geopolitical tensions in recent months as Russia cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected retaliation against Western sanctions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

While the pipelines — operated by a consortium majority-owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom — are not currently in operation, they both still contained gas.

On Thursday, NATO declared that the damage was “the result of deliberate, reckless and irresponsible acts of sabotage”.

“These leaks are causing risks to shipping and substantial environmental damage,” the Western military alliance said in a statement.

Danish officials said on Wednesday – prior to the discovery of the fourth leak – that more than half of the gas in the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea had leaked into the atmosphere after they were damaged.

“A clear majority of the gas has already come out of the pipes,” the head of the Danish Energy Agency, Kristoffer Böttzauw, told a press conference.

“We expect the rest to escape by Sunday,” he added.

Defence Minister Morten Bødskov said Wednesday morning that, due to pressure of the gas leaking out, it would take “one or two weeks” before inspections of the damaged structures could begin.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said at a symposium in Paris that to him it was “very obvious” who was behind the leaks.

He said natural gas shortages in the wake of the war in Ukraine could make for a tough winter in Europe.

“In the absence of a major negative surprise, I think Europe, in terms of natural gas, can survive this winter with a lot of bruises in our bodies in terms of prices, economy and social issues, but we can go through that,” Birol said.

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