Russian President Vladimir Poutine held a large pro-war rally on Friday, where several Russian Olympic medalists, including swimmers, appeared on stage at Luzhniki Stadium.
The athletes wore the nationalist “Z” symbol and were celebrated ahead of Putin’s speech.
Swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared on stage wearing their Olympic medals alongside gymnasts and figure skaters.
List of Russian athletes involved in a pro-war rally in Moscow:
* Alexander Bolshunov
* Arina and Dina Averina
* Evgenia Tarasova
* Yevgeny Rylov
* Victory Listunova
*Vladimir Morozov pic.twitter.com/J0jUR6uCzZ
— Fouad Alakbarov (@DrAlakbarov) March 19, 2022
Rylov, second from left. The present Vladimir Morozov is the figure skater of the same name, who won an Olympic silver medal in 2022, not the swimmer.
Rylov is a staff sergeant in the Moscow Oblast police in Lobnya.
In his speech, Putin praised the country’s “special operation” in Ukraine and celebrated the 10th anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the former Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Putin describes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which killed at least 816 Ukrainian civilians according to the United Nations, as a “special operation” and forbids journalists from calling it a “war”.
While FINA has barred Russian athletes from competing internationally under their country’s flag or symbols, they have refrained from the outright ban that most international sports organizations have in place. Instead, they pledged to assess the participation of athletes and officials on a case-by-case basis.
FINA also refused to move the December short course world championships out of Kazan, Russia.
FINA has acknowledged Rylov’s presence at the rally, but has not yet indicated whether this will trigger the organization’s “case by case” clause.
FINA provided SwimSwam with a statement regarding the situation:
FINA is deeply disappointed to note the reports regarding Yevgeny Rylovat the Luzhniki stadium during Friday’s rally. We are investigating the matter further.
The international gymnastics and skating federations have indefinitely banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in competitions.
Luznhiki Stadium, which was the main stadium for the 1980 Olympics, appeared to be filled to its 60,000 capacity.
Rylov won Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medals in the 100m and 200m backstroke, and he added a silver medal as part of Russia’s 800 freestyle relay.
As Russian athletes continue to protest that the war in Ukraine has nothing to do with sport and that athletes should not be subject to bans, more and more evidence is linking the war to sport. This includes Ukrainian athletes unable to travel, Ukrainian sports facilities, including several major aquatic centers, hit by Russian bombs and missiles, a Ukrainian national team coach injured in a missile strike and now athletes Russians appearing at pro-war rallies. Most of Ukraine’s elite aquatic athletes have now left the country to train elsewhere, mainly in Germany, Hungary and Italy, although some have taken up arms in the country’s volunteer militias.
The list of Russian athletes who were on stage during the rally:
- Alexander Bolshunov
- Arina and Dina Averina
- Evgenia Tarasova
- Yevgeny Rylov
- Nikita Katsalapov
- Victoria Sinitsina
- Viktoriia Listunova
- Vladimir Morozov (figure skater, not swimmer).
Ukrainian swimmer Andrii Govorov, world record holder, posted on his Instagram Story on Saturday that he and Rylov have a good friendship, but criticized him for his attendance at the rally, saying “it’s heartbreaking to see him with that ‘Z’ sign on his chest.” Govorov says Rylov blocked him on Instagram.
Video of the event: