Nordic Athletes Withdraw From Russian Competitions in Protest Against Ukraine Operation
© AFP 2023 / JONATHAN NACKSTRANDThis file photo taken on February 28, 2015 shows Norway's Therese Johaug celebrating with her three gold medals during the medals ceremony of the women's cross country 30 km mass start classic style competition of the 2015 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Falun, Sweden.
© AFP 2023 / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND
The situation around Ukraine has worsened dramatically over the past several days, with Ukraine shelling the Donbass republics and prompting a mass evacuation of civilians. After an appeal by both the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, Russia recognised them as independent entities and resorted to a special operation to "de-Nazify" Ukraine.
The Swedish Ski Association has announced that no Swedish winter athletes will participate in any competitions in Russia during the coming spring.
The association earlier called on the International Ski Association (FIS) to move the competitions, but since this has not been done, the Swedes will withdraw.
"We oppose it and think it is wrong. We already wrote to FIS a couple of weeks ago and had a communication with them about moving the tournaments. We already thought then that the situation didn't feel good to send leaders and skiers there. We think that's wrong", its chairwoman Karin Mattsson, told national broadcaster SVT.
This decision even applies to the upcoming World Cup competition in skicross in Russia's Sunny Valley in the Urals, chairwoman Karin Mattsson said.
Several Swedes are already in Sunny Valley, but won't participate. Per Mattson, the association is working hard to get them home, which is problematic in the absence of direct flights.
This decision was hailed by Sweden's top cross-country skier Jens Burman, who previously said he didn't want to compete in Russia.
"I think it is a good decision. I still think that FIS should announce that they are cancelling, but it may come. It definitely does not feel safe to go there when it is as it is", he told SVT, admitting that it was partly out of fear, but partly to take a stand.
Earlier, Norwegian ski stars and multiple Olympic gold winners Therese Johaug and Johannes Klæbo announced that they will not participate in the World Cup final in Russia's Tyumen over the nation's special operation in Ukraine, with Norwegian Ski Association President Erik Røste calling all upcoming competitions to be moved away from Russia.
In other winter sports, the Finnish ice hockey club Jokerit has announced its decision to withdraw from the international KHL league's ongoing season. Having qualified for the playoffs, Jokerit has yielded to demands from its supporters' association to extricate itself from the Russia-based league in protest against the situation in Ukraine. The Finnish newspaper Iltalehti said, citing three independent sources, that the club has now offered its players to leave to go play elsewhere.
The situation around Ukraine has deteriorated over the past several days, with Ukrainian forces shelling the Donbass republics, prompting a mass evacuation of civilians. After an appeal by both the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, Russia recognised them as independent entities and demanded that Kiev stop the attacks.
On 24 February, Russia launched a special operation in Ukraine, with Vladimir Putin describing it as an essential step to stop the atrocities the Donbass republics were facing from the nationalist government in Kiev.