Fans barred from European soccer game amid Russian plot fear
NYON, Switzerland (AP) — A European soccer game in Moldova will be played in an empty stadium on Thursday amid concerns about alleged Russian-backed attempts to overthrow the national government.
UEFA said Tuesday no fans will be allowed in the stadium when Sheriff hosts Serbian club Partizan in the first leg of a Europa Conference League knockout playoff.
The behind-closed-doors order was “due to the decision of the authorities in Moldova,” UEFA said in a statement.
It came one day after the president of Moldova, Maia Sandu, described an alleged Russian plot against her country’s government using external saboteurs.
Moldova, a former Soviet republic of about 2.6 million people, has sought to build stronger ties with the European Union since its neighbor Ukraine was invaded by Russia one year ago.
Serbia is a traditional ally of Russia and fans of Partizan from Belgrade were expected at the game in the Moldovan capital Chisinau.
Sheriff is from Tiraspol in the separatist region of Transnistria and its games in UEFA competitions have already subject to a political decision this season because of the war.
UEFA required Sheriff to play home games away from Tiraspol, which is about 90 kilometers (55 miles) from the Ukrainian city of Odesa.
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