A 15-year-old Russian driver has apologized after being shown laughing on the podium following what some believe was a “Nazi salute”.
A 15-year-old Russian karter has apologized after being kicked off his team as he is investigated by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) for making what appeared to be a Nazi salute after winning in Portugal.
Artem Severiukhin, competing under an Italian license because the FIA has banned Russian competitors, struck his heart twice with his fist before extending his right arm in a gesture suspected of being a Nazi salute. He then burst out laughing on the winner’s podium at Portimao.
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“The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile confirms that it has launched an immediate investigation into the unacceptable conduct of Mr Artem Severiukhin that occurred during the podium ceremony for the OK category at Round 1 of the 2022 FIA Karting European Championship at the Kartodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portugal,” the FIA said in a statement.
His Swedish team, Ward Racing, said in an Instagram post they had fired the driver.
“Ward racing is deeply in shame of the pilot’s action,” it posted, adding it had made clear its opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine by putting “No War” stickers on driver helmets and has three Ukrainian refugee families traveling with the team.
“On the basis of these considerations Ward Racing sees of continued co-operation with Artem Severiukhin and will proceed with terminating his racing contract.”
Severiukhin said he had been misunderstood.
“I won the round of the European Championship and was very happy,” he was quoted as saying by a Russian Automobile Federation spokesperson, according to Motosport.com.
“I’m from Russia. I thanked the team and my relatives from Russia. Someone saw a bad gesture in my actions, but it’s not. I just thanked them. I am Russian, I am from Russia and I stand by my country.”
The site also quoted the Russian Automobile Federation as saying they too were investigating “a gesture that some perceived as the ‘Roman salute’.”
They pointed out that the driver was competing under the Italian flag and the Italian anthem was playing as he made the gesture.
“We also report that we consider unacceptable any, even an accidental manifestation of fascism and Nazism in Russian motorsport and among Russian athletes,” said the Russian body.
Severiukhin later posted a video message on his Instagram account, apologizing for being a “fool”.
“I want to apologise to everyone for what happened yesterday,” he said.
“Standing on the podium I made a gesture that many perceived as a Nazi salute. This is not true. I have never supported Nazism and consider it one of the worst crimes against humanity.”
Severiukhin added he “just wanted to make a gesture” to show his gratitude after the win.
“I know that I am a fool and I’m ready to be punished but please believe that there was no intention in my actions, there was no support for Nazism or Fascism. There was no desire to offend spectators, fans, athletes or the team,” he said.