How are Russian athletes in uniform going to infiltrate the Olympics? An investigation by Glavkom

How are Russian athletes in uniform going to infiltrate the Olympics
How are Russian athletes in uniform going to infiltrate the Olympics
© Photos from open sources
Kostiantyn Golubtsov

Kostiantyn Golubtsov

Updated: February 15 2023 at 10:34 am

Russian sports massively supported the attack on Ukraine. Does the IOC see no problem with this? On the day when the President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach allowed "exploring the possibilities" of athletes from Russia and Belarus returning to international sports, about two thousand professional Ukrainian athletes were already holding weapons and defending their homeland. Almost 60 of them have already died.

Thomas Bach's desire to make the next Olympics to be held in Paris a commercial success is understandable. After all, Russia has never spared any money to promote its representatives, even when they competed under the so-called "neutral flag." And it did not spare advertising packages at the Games themselves, promoting the "strength and power of great Russia." It should be noted that the chairman of the Olympic Committee (a German by nationality) has a long-standing and very warm relationship with Vladimir Putin. He went to hockey games with him, drank tea with Russian Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva, and transferred the money earned by the IOC at the 2014 Sochi Games to "the needs of Russian sports."

The war declared by Vladimir Putin immediately after the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing forced the sports world to decide what to do with Russian athletes. Some international federations immediately announced that Russians and judges from this country would not be allowed to participate in international competitions. Some tried to turn a blind eye to citizenship (emphasizing that the athletes would be representing themselves, not the country, at the competition). This was the case, for example, with the participation of the then world number one Daniil Medvedev in a number of international tournaments.

The head of the IOC also tried to "sneak in" in the same way. First he supported the extension of sanctions against Russian and Belarusian athletes, then in October he suddenly defended them, saying that "they did not start this war." And at the G-20 summit, he even said that not allowing Russians and Belarusians to compete "violates the principle of 'sport is out of politics' and makes it impossible to hold the competition fairly."

Therefore, Bach's new initiative to give members of the Russian and Belarusian national Olympic teams the opportunity to participate in the next Olympics in 2024 was not a particular surprise. The IOC chief is not deterred by the fact that such a move could lead to a boycott of the competition by other athletes. In response to a statement by the President of the NOC of Ukraine Vadym Gutzeit, Bach said that a possible boycott "does not correspond to the IOC's mission."

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy also had a discussion with Bach in absentia. The head of state announced the start of a "marathon of honesty" aimed at cleansing the leadership of international Olympic structures of hypocrisy. The head of state also invited Bach to Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast, which was destroyed by the Russians.

Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, the United Kingdom and Germany have already condemned the IOC's position. Nevertheless, there were prominent European politicians who supported the strange decision: Italian Defense Minister Guido Crozetto believes that it is "wrong to treat all Russians as enemies." "I have never shared the closed-mindedness towards artists, athletes, and civilians," the official said. Meanwhile, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has already announced a possible boycott of the next Olympics. "It's time to strengthen isolation, not give in to Russia," she wrote.

IOC head Thomas Bach insists that the boycott of Russians and Belarusians
Photo: Reuters

How will Russians and Belarusians be selected for the Olympics? Bach's version
According to Bach, representatives of the Russian and Belarusian federations can go to the Olympics "under strict conditions": after checking the athletes' position on the war in Ukraine. It is difficult to say how this will be implemented in practice. After all, criticism of the war ("special operation") in the Russian Federation is subject to criminal liability. Thus, it is unclear how athletes who criticized Putin's war will return home after the competition.

The methodology for selecting athletes is equally unclear, as they are supposed to be sent to competitions by federations (which, in any case, remain part of the Russian propaganda machine). The IOC seems to have approved the idea of allowing athletes from aggressor countries to participate in qualifying competitions within Asia. However, this already means allowing Russian athletes to participate in international competitions.

Position on the war in Ukraine

The reality is that Russian athletes massively and openly support the war in Ukraine. Putin has felt this support since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. As early as March 18, when Russian soldiers were shooting residents of Bucha, many well-known Russian athletes took part in the rally "For a world without Nazism! For Russia! For the President!" in Luzhniki. The rally-concert was allegedly timed to coincide with the eighth anniversary of Crimea's "accession to Russia," but in fact it was a kind of parade of Nazi athletes. These people, after being banned from international competitions, have always shouted that sport is out of politics. But if this is true, it is certainly not in Russia...

Russian athletes support genocide of Ukrainians
Russian athletes support genocide of Ukrainians. Broadcast frame

Almost a year has passed, and the position of those who support "sports outside politics" has not changed: they continue to staunchly support the Russian dictator.

Sportrancy in quotes

For example, grandmaster Serhiy Karyakin repeats one of the top theses of Kremlin propaganda about "the Donbas bamboozling": "For eight long years, we have been waiting with hope for salvation from countless shelling and loss of human lives, continuous genocide by the Kyiv regime, which is still in place."

The chess player was not afraid to bow at Putin's feet and supported the genocide of Ukrainians: "I express to you, our commander-in-chief, my full support in protecting the interests of Russia, our multinational Russian people, eliminating threats and establishing peace! I wish you to fulfill all the tasks assigned to our valiant army as soon as possible."

The chess player periodically speaks out in support of the dictator. For example, in one of his interviews, the grandmaster claimed that "Europe is completely degraded, the United States - to a lesser extent". "I think the special operation gives us the necessary impetus to stay human, to stay away from the horrors that are happening there," Karjakin said at the time.

Putin did not remain in debt: in early June last year, he awarded Karyakin the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, Second Class. The tyrant also recognized the sacrifices made by the chess player: On March 21, the FIDE Ethics and Discipline Commission suspended Karjakin for six months because of his open letter to Putin in which he supported the special operation in Ukraine. The most disgusting thing about this story is that Karjakin was born in Simferopol and played under the Ukrainian flag until 2009. The grandmaster then became a Russian citizen.

Rashist Karyakin
Rashist Karyakin: I have many friends and relatives in Donetsk and in Ukraine, in particular in Zaporizhzhia, Zhytomyr... In general, I am very worried. And I believe that our army will be able to restore order there

There are many people like Karyakin.

Boxer Oleksandr Povetkin added another propaganda thesis to Karjakin's "eight years of bamboozling Dombas". It is about alleged Nazism in Ukraine, supported by the West: "The power is in the truth. This well-known phrase, said by Sergei Bodrov (Russian actor and director - Glavkom), reflects the essence of what is happening in Ukraine today. We have been fighting for the truth all these years while Slavs were being exterminated in Donbas. That is why I support the president and his decision to stand up for ordinary people, to fight back against neo-Nazism, which is parasitizing at whose expense."

By the way, after these statements, it turned out that Povetkin called Ukrainian champion Oleksandr Usyk. "Povetkin started telling me something - he doesn't understand anything at all. He started calling Sasha, telling him some stories that something was wrong with you, that you were imagining things. How can he know what's wrong with us?" Usyk's wife Kateryna was indignant.

Povetkin regularly shows his respect for Putin
Povetkin regularly shows his respect for Putin Photo: Kommersant

Elena Vyalbe, a famous skier and now the head of the Russian Ski Racing Federation, also blindly trusts Putin. "It is clear to the whole world that we are patriots of the country. At least I voted for Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin all the years he was running for president. During his first election campaign, I was his confidant. Therefore, I will never question, discuss, or even think about this man's decisions, because I have completely trusted him. And I think it was absolutely right," she admits.

Elena Välbe
Elena Välbe adores Putin and is convinced that only Russian women listen to him. Photo from open sources

Moreover: Välbe maintains a macho image for the 70-year-old Putin, a dictator who rides a horse naked. The skier believes that almost all women in Russia are delighted with Putin: "I think he has won over 99% of Russian women in general. Because when he speaks, many women start listening. Few women listen to other politicians."

Special CSKA

Russia also still has a special sports unit that is directly subordinate to the Russian Defense Ministry. This is the CSKA club (Central Sports Club of the Army), which is one of the country's largest sports organizations. Athletes from this club traditionally form the backbone of Russian national teams. And the team members themselves wear the same shoulder straps as the occupiers fighting on the territory of Ukraine.

The athletes and the club's management often wear military uniforms: for official events and for photographs
The athletes and the club's management often wear military uniforms: for official events and for photographs. photos from open sources
All coaches have military uniforms, which they periodically wear to official events

With CSKA, Putin has a complete understanding. The club has repeatedly expressed its support for the war against Ukraine, and Putin pays for it generously.

On the second day of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the CSKA and Spartak hockey clubs played a friendly match under a large banner with the CSKA logo and the words "Putin is our president."

CSKA hockey team ardently supported the dictator.
CSKA hockey team ardently supported the dictator. A shot from the Sport 1 channel

Last October, the CSKA volleyball team supported the Russian army: players and coaches of the army club starred in a video that used the music of the song "Holy War" (Get up, you huge country...).

"Privates and officers, militia and volunteers, CSKA volleyball club is with you. Our values are courage, loyalty, honor, and love for the Motherland. Our duty is to defend our homeland. We all know how to take a hit, get up and move forward, despite fatigue and pain. We will win no matter what! When our time comes, we will stand side by side with you. The truth is with us! We are together! We are Russia!" the club members recite in the video.

CSKA's Instagram is full of videos of club members calling for the fight against "Nazi lawlessness," all of which are posted under the hashtags #ZaPatsanoV #ZaPobeda #heroesZ

It is noteworthy that the ability to comment on such posts is disabled.

On Twitter, CSKA posted a video with children's drawings in support of the war, with "Let There Always Be Sky..." playing in the background.

The club's position is shared by all its members in one way or another. For example, Maria Lasitskene, a three-time world champion in high jump, became "famous" for her open letter to the IOC president. Lasitskene, who was Putin's confidant in the last presidential election and now represents the CSKA sports club, an institution of the Russian Defense Ministry that kills Ukrainians every day, suddenly found herself... out of politics.

Lasitskene regularly wears Russian military uniform to official events
Lasitskene regularly wears Russian military uniform to official events. Photo from open sources

"Out of the last seven years, I have not had the opportunity to compete in international competitions for about four years in total, although I have never had any complaints. Except for one... The International Association of Athletics Federations pulls out a trump card at every opportunity in the form of my Russian passport. And you let them get away with it," the athlete is offended.

"You prefer not to delve into what athletes living in Russia think and how they live with what is happening in Ukraine... But you have chosen the easiest solution for you: to suspend everyone on the basis of citizenship," wrote Lasitskene, who did not dare to express her attitude to Putin's war against Ukraine.

Screenshot of Lasitskene's Instagram page
Screenshot of Lasitskene's Instagram page

Honored Master of Sports of Russia, World and European champion in sambo, two-time World Cup winner, Russian champion, and now platoon commander and coach of the sports platoon of the sports company (St. Petersburg), Senior Lieutenant of the Russian Armed Forces Fedor Durimanov openly stated in March last year that he wanted to work with children "from the liberated territories that became part of Russia."

Screenshot of Durimanov's Instagram page
Screenshot of Durimanov's Instagram page

Russian athlete from the CSKA club Sergei Shubenkov expresses his views softly, but a certain position is visible behind them. For example, when he spoke about Ukrainian athlete Olga Saladukha in an interview, he noted that she comes from a city (Donetsk) "that Ukraine considers its own." He does not call the war a war, but prefers the term "military conflict" used by propaganda.

Russian sabre fencer of the CSKA club, multiple Olympic champion, and major of the Russian Armed Forces, Sofya Velikaya, often appears in public in military uniform. The comrade major has received awards from Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Shoigu promotes Captain Veliky to major ahead of schedule
Shoigu promotes Captain Veliky to major ahead of schedule Photo: Instagram sofya.velikaya

Velikaya was not the only one to be honored by Defense Minister Shoigu. For example, the athletes who represented CSKA at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, including Olympic champion Zaurbek Sidakov and bronze medalists Madina Taymazova and Artur Nayfonov, were awarded medals for military valor by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Russian CSKA athletes are extremely close to the Russian Ministry of Defense
Russian CSKA athletes are extremely close to the Russian Ministry of Defense photo:

Two-time Olympic sabre champion Sofia Pozdnyakova divorced her husband Konstantin Lokhanov in the name of Putin and his war. On February 23, 2022, Lokhanov left Russia for a medical examination, after which he underwent surgery on February 25. The athlete then decided not to return to Russia and moved to the United States. Because of this, he was immediately removed from the Russian national team.

Konstantin did not accept the full-scale invasion. Pozdnyakova remained loyal to Putin and her father, the head of the Russian Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdnyakov. He later said that his daughter divorced Lokhanov "out of love for her homeland."

It was because of Lokhanov's trip to the United States that he was immediately expelled from the national team.

The fencers' divorce became known in September
The fencers' divorce became known in September Photo:

The titled Russian gymnasts Arina and Dina Averina have probably taken part in all the events in support of the war. In addition, in September 2022, Dina performed in a swimsuit stylized as the Russian coat of arms, which, according to the girls, was made in 2019.

Photo from the averinsteam Instagram

Such deflections, as they say, have been counted: from sports, which is "out of politics," the girls will move to the State Duma building: starting February 15, they will be part of the Youth Parliament, where they will head the expert council on sports.

After Instagram was shut down for Russians, CSKA moved to Telegram. There, they continue to actively inform fans about their sporting successes, as well as spread propaganda, one of which is the glorification of the victory in World War II. In particular, one of the posts is dedicated to an action during which children were given "blockade bread": 125 grams each, as this was the norm during the siege of Leningrad.

In response to this outpouring of sympathy, Putin gave CSKA-affiliated athletes guarantees that they would not be mobilized. This exemption is surprising, as the "partial mobilization" that Putin signed on September 21 was intended to recruit primarily those who had already served and had combat experience. It would have been logical for members of the army's Central Sports Club to be in the forefront. But this did not happen. "CSKA athletes were told long ago that they would be drafted in the last waves. Recently, this information was confirmed once again," the Kremlin's RIA Novosti news agency assured, citing its own sources.

"I think CSKA players cannot be mobilized. As far as I know, CSKA's Russian players have already served their time in sports companies. They take those who have served with specific military specialties. Do you think that those who have now served in sports companies are needed?" - this is how Sergey Ivanov, honorary president of the VTB United League and former Russian Defense Minister, explained the situation in an interview with TASS.

One more touch to the picture of Putin's relations with CSKA: the president of the Russian football club CSKA (which, by the way, is under US sanctions) is Yevgeny Giner. He is also a partner in the Russian state corporation Rostec, which produces and exports high-tech industrial products for civilian and military use. The corporation is headed by former FSB officer Sergei Chemezov, a longtime friend and ally of Putin.

By the way, in mid-January, Putin signed a decree on a large-scale celebration of CSKA's centennial.

So Russian sport is definitely not out of politics, definitely not against the war, and sometimes it just wears uniforms that it doesn't even hide. And the head of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, knows this for sure.

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