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Sports minister critical of Russian volleyball clubs refusing away matches in Turkey

December 15, 2015, 16:26 UTC+3

Two European League’s volleyball fixtures were skipped by Russian clubs for security reasons which resulted in technical defeats

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© Donat Sorokin/ITAR-TASS

MOSCOW, December 15. /TASS/. Russian volleyball clubs made a wrong decision in choosing not to travel to Turkey for their scheduled away matches, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Tuesday.

Two European League’s volleyball fixtures involving Russian clubs were scheduled to take place in early December in Turkey - between Belogorye Belgorod and Arkas Izmir on December 1, and between Dinamo Moscow and Ziraat Ankara on December 2. The Russian clubs skipped both of the scheduled away matches citing security reasons and were eventually handed technical defeats.

"We must neither dramatize nor aggravate the situation around Turkey, we did not break up diplomatic relations," Mutko told journalists. "Such decisions are unnecessary if we are talking about an official calendar of competitions and not about training sessions."

"The volleyball clubs made a completely wrong decision in my opinion," he said. "But it is their decision and they are independent professional clubs. We will never allow our national teams not to go to Turkey in the same situation."

Turkey’s Ankara is hosting between January 4 and 9 women’s volleyball qualification tournament for the 2016 Summer Olympics and Mutko said "the Ministry of Sports will do everything for the women national volleyball team to feel comfortable and secure at the Olympic qualification tournament in Turkey."

"I will be meeting with the team in the nearest future," the minister added.

"The Turkish side is capable of providing security and there were never any problems in this regard," Mutko said. "If they [Turkey] were unable to host tournaments of such level, the international organizations would have never given them the rights to do it."

Relations between Russia and Turkey were strained after an F-16 fighter jet from the Turkish Air Force shot down on November 24 a Russian Su-24M bomber, which was on anti-terrorism mission over Syria. Ankara claims the Su-24M bomber violated the Turkish air space in the area of the border with Syria, while Moscow maintains that the Su-24M plane stayed exclusively over the Syrian territory.

Following the incident the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Tourism advised Russian nationals against travelling to Turkey over security concerns. Furthermore, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced Russia’s decision to scrap visa-free regime with Turkey starting in 2016.

On top of all, the Russian Football Union (RFU) recommended the country’s football clubs against holding winter-time training sessions in Turkey. Similar recommendation was voiced by the Russian Ministry of Sports.

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