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The IRL has offered unreserved support to the Ukrainian Federation of Rugby League and is set to consider banning Russia from international fixtures over the invasion of Ukraine.

IRL chairman Troy Grant condemned the Russian Government for the military attacks on Ukraine where, just days ago, players and officials had been preparing for the upcoming season but are now helping to defend their country.

The IRL is expected to consider similar action to the IOC and other sporting bodies who have banned Russian teams and athletes from competing at international level.

"International Rugby League sends its strongest possible support to our friends and colleagues in Ukraine,” Grant said in a statement issued by the IRL on Tuesday.

“We join other international sporting federations in condemning the actions of Russia in Ukraine.

“We are devastated to be witnessing what is happening in their homeland and the unprovoked, inexcusable actions of the Russian Government in Ukraine."

Ukraine was the IRL's 25th ranked men’s playing nation at the end of last season after reaching the final of the European Championships B against Serbia in Belgrade.

Ukraine's Oleksandr Skorbach runs with the ball against Greece
Ukraine's Oleksandr Skorbach runs with the ball against Greece

The eastern European nation lost 28-26 to Greece in a qualifying match for the postponed 2021 World Cup and has been one of the most active rugby league playing countries since the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

UFRL president and national coach Artur Martyrosian issued a statement last weekend seeking the support of the international rugby league community for Ukraine.

"Ukrainian Federation of Rugby League is breaking all connections with the aggressors - Russia and Belarus,” the statement said.

"Until these countries change and condemn the criminal authorities that supported the attack on Ukraine our teams will not participate in any competitions in Russia and Belarus and will not host these teams in Ukraine. 

"Also, we ask Rugby League umbrella organisations - European Rugby League and International Rugby League  - to isolate teams from Russia and Belarus from participating in any international Rugby League competitions until the criminal regimes of governments in these countries are changed. Glory to Ukraine."

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The International Olympic Committee has recommended sports bodies exclude Russian athletes and officials from international events, and soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, has banned all Russian national teams and clubs from all competitions until further notice.

The International Paralympic Committee will meet on Wednesday to discuss Russia's participation at the Winter Games, beginning in Beijing on Friday.

A raft of other sporting bodies, including World Rugby, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the World Curling Federation have begun suspending or banning Russia from competitions.

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