Will Russian athletes also go to war? Some have already stood up for Putin

When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization on Wednesday, he announced that up to 300,000 reservists could join the fighting. However, the rules of mobilization still remain unclear, and foreign media are trying to find out who could be affected by the call-up order.

Logically, the question of Russian athletes also came up. In Russia, sport is very close to the military, and the lists of policemen or soldiers and elite athletes often overlap. According to the server, up to half of the 71 Russian medalists from the last Summer Olympics come from the police force or the army.

To the question of whether the soldiers fighting in Ukraine will be strengthened by sportsmen and women, the Russian media, among them for example Sport-Express, provided a partial answer, writes the sports daily Marca.

“Approximately 300,000 reservists will be called up from among citizens with military-technical specialization important for the army. Specific call-up lists will be created at the local level, and it is difficult for politicians to say how much this will affect our sport,” the Russian daily reports.

However, he indicates that there is nothing preventing the calling of athletes. “If athletes are soldiers or officers in reserve and under 35 years of age, they can theoretically be called up as part of partial mobilization. Contracts with professional sports clubs do not prevent this,” explains Sport-Express.

Russian mobilization in practice

Partial mobilization in Russia will probably take place mainly under the direction of regional authorities. However, they have reportedly not received any specific instructions for the time being.

However, according to the Russian daily, it is quite unlikely that Vladimir Putin’s recent decree will significantly affect the Russian sports industry.

“There are plans to call in people with ‘combat experience’. It is unlikely that there will be many such candidates among athletes,” says Sport-Express. “It is unlikely that the presidential order would affect active athletes en masse,” he adds.

A member of the Russian State Duma, Svetlana Žurová, also offers a similarly vague answer, according to which it is still too early to answer the question of whether the mobilization of athletes will be affected.

“I do not know. It will be the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation that will inform about it. But it will mainly be athletes in officer ranks who were in CSKA or Dynamo (Russian sports clubs that are very close to the Russian military, note ed.),” said Žurová.

“Those who went through the sports clubs had military specializations and are therefore most likely to fall into partial mobilization,” he explains.

However, the state agency Ria Novosti claims that the mobilization of athletes from CSKA is not yet on the agenda. “The CSKA athletes will be the last to be mobilized,” the agency claims, referring to an unnamed source who is said to be well-versed in the situation. He said that the information that Russian athletes will be drafted only in the last wave has been known for a long time and was recently confirmed again.

With the letter Z on the chest

How the mobilization will take place and who will ultimately be affected remain unclear. As well as whether Russian athletes will be willing to lay down their lives for their president in an emergency.

Some of them have openly sided with him in the past. Several of Russia’s top athletes attended Putin’s rally at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium in May. They proudly wore the letter Z on their chests, which symbolizes support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Among those present were, for example, world and Olympic swimming champion Yevgeny Mikhailovich Rylov, skaters Viktorija Sinicinova and Nikita Kacalapov, who became world champions in 2021, Vladimir Morozov, ski jumpers Irina Avvakumovova and Evgeniy Klimov, who won second place in the mixed competition at Winter Games in Beijing, sports gymnasts and Olympic champions from Beijing Viktoria Ustinová and Vladislava Uzarová, and twins Dina and Arina Averin, gymnasts of the national rhythmic team and members of the CSKA club.

Open expressions of support among athletes appeared almost immediately after the beginning of the Russian occupation of Ukraine. In early March, Russian gymnast Ivan Kuljak arrived for the bronze medal at the World Gymnastics Cup in Doha with the letter Z on his chest. Ukrainian gymnast Ilya Kovtun, who won the gold medal, stood by his side.

The Foundation for Gymnastics Ethics subsequently found out as part of a disciplinary investigation that Ivan Kuljak violated the rules of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) by showing support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. She therefore banned him from participating in all competitions or races organized by the FIG federation for a period of one year and ordered him to return the bronze medal, as well as a financial reward of 500 Swiss francs (approx. 11,800 crowns).


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