War on Ukraine: Ukraine’s Fencing Federation – “Will not compete against Russians”

Status: 03/21/2023 3:45 p.m

Ukraine’s fencing federation has announced a boycott of all events where fighters from Russia or Belarus compete.

As the Ukrainian association NFFU informed the sports show on Tuesday (March 21, 2023), it will not send fencers, referees or coaches to such competitions. The presidency of the association discussed measures to “the unlawful and shameful decision” of the World Federation FIE on the return of athletes from Russia and Belarus in court to challenge.

Russia has been waging a war of aggression against Ukraine for more than a year, Belarus is making its territory available as a deployment area, and Ukraine has repeatedly reported rocket fire from Belarus. Russia’s attack on Ukraine affects not only civilians but also sports. Numerous athletes were killed by Russia and many sports facilities were destroyed.

With a German voice: FIE decides “neutral” re-admission

On March 10th, the FIE Congress nevertheless decided to reintegrate athletes flying a neutral flag, which would make it possible to qualify for the Olympic Games in Paris 2024. The German Fechter-Bund (DFB) made an active contribution to this. According to information from the sports show, the DFB Presidium had instructed its President Claudia Bokel to vote for the re-admission of individual athletes. On the other hand, Bokel should vote “No” when asked whether teams and officials can participate again.

After the Russian attack began, the International Olympic Committee initially recommended sports associations to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes. Most recently, however, the IOC, under its German President Thomas Bach, opened the door for re-admission and pointed out that people from Russia and Belarus should not be excluded solely because of their nationality. The German Olympic Sports Confederation, on the other hand, advocated maintaining this exclusion on Friday.

German fencers are horrified

“Fencing is very closely intertwined with Russia”the German fencer criticized the decision of the FIE in an interview with the Sportschau. “The World Federation chairman Usmanov is a Russian oligarch who has invested a lot of money in fencing. That means the money in fencing comes from Russia. And of course there is a great interest in continuing to get the money.”

Former fencer Max Hartung reacted similarly. He was disappointed with the decision and also with the attitude of the German association, said the founding president of the athletes’ representation, Athleten Deutschland, in an interview with the sports show. “I would have liked to have communicated how to vote and justify the decision – like other associations have done.”

Ukrainian fencer: “I can’t imagine competing against her”

Ukrainian fencer Olga Kharlan said about the sports show: “I can’t see myself fighting them and honestly I don’t want to either.” She hopes that such a situation will not arise. She is aware of the consequences. “Of course it can be my last competition”she said at the World Cup of saber fencers in Sint-Niklaas in Belgium.

Ukrainian fencer Olga Kharlan

Léa Krüger also pointed out this situation: “It could be one of the last competitions where we see Olga and the other Ukrainians. And for many, including me, Olga used to be a great role model and idol. It breaks my heart a bit.”

IOC recommends neutral status

In a recommendation, the IOC demanded that a return should only be allowed under one “neutral status” should be possible. The IOC stated as a framework that the athletes are not allowed to represent their state in any way and “did not actively support the war in Ukraine” may have. However, it is not clear how this is to be checked and ensured.

At the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and at the Winter Games in Beijing, Russian athletes were only allowed to compete under a neutral flag because the World Anti-Doping Agency considered it proven that the Russian government had manipulated data from the doping laboratory in Moscow. The “neutral” Olympic teams won 71 medals in Tokyo and 32 medals in Beijing.

Sport as part of Putin’s propaganda

Several members of Russia’s “neutral” Olympic teams appeared with their medals at a Putin propaganda show at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium in March 2022, their team uniforms from the Games unequivocally emblazoned with a “Z” – the symbol for the Russian invasion in Ukraine. A propagandistic exploitation of sporting achievements is therefore also possible outside the direct environment of the games.

“Neutral Athletes” from Russia at a propaganda show at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow

The sport has often been part of Russia’s President Putin’s propaganda. Immediately after the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia illegally annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. FIFA also offered Putin one of the biggest stages in world sport in 2018 with the World Cup.


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