Russian Olympic athletes face backlash after Vladimir Putin rally

London (AP) —Russian Olympic athletes attending a rally in support of President Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine are facing a backlash, one losing sponsorship and facing disciplinary action.

Cross-country skiing, gymnastics, figure skating and swimming medalists gathered on stage at Luziniki Stadium on Friday as part of a concert and entertainment program. Putin’s speech..

Olympic champion swimmer Evgeny Rylov is under investigation to attend the event, the sports governing body told The Associated Press.

“FINA is very disappointed with the report that Evgeny Rylov played at Luzhniki Stadium during the Friday rally. We are investigating this issue further,” he said.

Lilov also lost his approval contract with swimwear maker Speedo because he attended a rally in support of Putin.

“After attending the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow over the weekend, Speedo can confirm that Evgeny Rylov’s sponsorship has ended immediately,” the company said. “We condemn the war in Ukraine as strongly as possible and solidarity with the Ukrainian people, athletes and teammates affected by the conflict.”

Speedo added that the rest of Rylov’s sponsorship fees will be donated to UNHCR, a UN agency that cares for refugees.

Most athletes, including Rylov, were depicted in the rally wearing a jacket with a “Z” on their chest. Although this letter is not part of the Russian alphabet, it became a symbol of Russian military support after being used as a marker for Russian armored vehicles operating in Ukraine.

Other Olympic medalist athletes in attendance included figure skater Victoria Sinitsina, Nikita Katsalapov, Evgenia Tarasova, and Vladimir Morozov. Cross-country skier Alexander Borschnov. Rhythmic gymnastics twin sisters, Dina and Arina Averina.

When the national anthem was played, the players staged, clearly referring to the fact that the Russian team did not perform the national anthem at the Tokyo Olympics last year and the Beijing Winter Olympics this year due to years of doping conflicts. I stood. ..

The event was held on the anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimean from Ukraine in 2014, with patriotic songs and praise for the military and Russian-backed separatists.

“Not long ago, we supported them in this difficult Olympic season. Now they support the war between us and our country,” said Ukrainian ice dancer Oleksandra Nazarowa. Wrote on Instagram last week with pictures of four Russian skaters who participated in the rally.

Both Nazarova and her partner Maxim Nikitin are from Kharkov, a mostly Russian-speaking city in northeastern Ukraine that has been heavily bombarded by Russian troops.

Since the invasion, dozens of sports have banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in events after the International Olympic Committee has recommended expulsion from competition. Belarus was an ally of Russia in the war.

There is precedent that Russian competitors are personally punished for supporting government policy. Gymnast Ivan Kleak Wearing the “Z” sign On the podium next to Ukrainian competitors, chess player Sergey Karjakin was suspended for six months on Monday due to a social media post that strongly supported Putin and the Russian army.

Skiing, gymnastics and skating governing bodies all ban events for Russian teams. Swimming is not the case, but Russians and Belarusians say they have to compete “in a neutral position.”

However, Rylov posted on Wednesday that he plans to boycott the FINA World Championships in June and July “as a sign of support” for Russian athletes who have been locked out of other competitions.


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