A Russian karter has been dropped by his team and is under investigation by motorsport’s governing body after he was filmed appearing to make a Nazi salute atop a podium on Monday (AEST).
Artem Severiukhin, 15, was accepting his prize after finishing first at an FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) Karting European Championship in Portugal when the incident unfolded.
You can watch the incident in the video above
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He was then seen laughing with members of the crowd who were off camera as the Italian national anthem played in the background of the awards ceremony.
The teenager was competing under an Italian license after the FIA banned drivers from racing under the Russian flag amid the invasion of Ukraine, a continuation of a worldwide trend in sport.
It was unclear if Severiukhin intended the gesture as some form of support for Russia’s invasion, however the teenager has since declared the gesture was not a Nazi salute.
“It is not true, I have never supported Nazis. I consider it one of the worst crimes against humanity,” Severiukhin said, in a video message sent to CNN by the Russian Automobile Federation (RAF).
“I know 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 of Nazism or racism.”
Severiukhin insisted he was simply celebrating with people in the crowd.
The FIA has since announced it “launched an immediate investigation into the unacceptable conduct of Mr Artem Severiukhin.”
Severiukhin’s Sweden-based team, Ward Racing, said it was ashamed of his behavior which it “condemns in the strongest possible terms.”
“The pilots of the team are not united by country or other categories. Most of the pilots do not represent the national team of any country, rather act individually,” the team said.
“Ward Racing accordingly condemns the personal actions of pilot Artem Severyukhin during the award ceremony in the strongest possible terms, as it considers them a manifestation of unsportsmanlike behavior, an unacceptable violation of the ethical and moral sports codex.
“With this statement, Ward Racing expresses its opinion, as well as the opinion of all athletes and staff of the Ward Racing team.
“On the basis of these considerations, Ward Racing sees no possibility for continued cooperation with Artem Severyukhin and will proceed with terminating his racing contract.
“Finally, Ward Racing would like to apologise to those who were hurt or distressed by the occurrence.”
Meanwhile the RAF said it was aware of the incident and stated it considered unacceptable “even an accidental manifestation of fascism and Nazism in Russian motorsport and among Russian athletes”.
Russian gymnast’s ‘disgusting’ podium act
The incident comes after a 20-year-old Russian gymnast was condemned by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) for his “shocking behavior” at a gymnastics World Cup event in Qatar in March.
Ivan Kuliak, was widely criticized outside Russia for wearing a pro-war symbol on a podium next to a Ukrainian athlete.
Kuliak wore a ‘Z’ symbol tapped to his leotard while standing next to Ukrainian gymnast Illia Kovtun on the podium – Kovtun won gold and Kuliak picked up bronze in the parallel bars.
Kuliak then inflamed the situation by saying he would “do exactly the same” if given another chance, according to Russian state media.
The gymnast’s statement sparked worldwide fury with critics demanding he be stripped of his bronze medal and face an immediate suspension from the sport.
“Can’t think of a more disgusting thing to do and a better reason to ban Russia from sporting events altogether instead of current half measures,” Ukrainian journalist Tadeus Giczan wrote.
The ‘Z’ insignia has been displayed on tanks and vehicles used by the Russian military in its Ukraine operations and has since become a symbol of support for the invasion of Ukraine.
Propaganda videos on social media appear to show supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin wearing clothing featuring the ‘Z’ symbol, waving Russian flags and chanting pro-Russia slogans.
“If there was a second chance and I would again have to choose whether to go out with the letter ‘Z’ on my chest or not, I would do exactly the same,” Kuliak was quoted as saying in Russia-controlled media outlet Russia Today.
“I saw it with our military and looked at what this symbol means. It turned out it means, ‘for victory’ and ‘for peace’.
“I didn’t wish anything bad on anyone, I just showed my position. As an athlete, I will always fight for victory and stand for peace.”
Having received expressions of support from the head of his sport’s governing body in Russia, the Artistic Gymnastics Federation of Russia (FSGR), Vasily Titov, Kuliak said he was annoyed by the Ukrainian athletes when they displayed their national flag at the event in Doha.
Under FIG regulations at the time, Russian gymnasts at the event were allowed only to compete as neutral athletes and could not display any national symbols.
– With AP