Ukrainian fencing team refuses to face Russia and withdraws from World Cup

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Ukrainian fencers withdrew from a World Cup event in Egypt to avoid facing Russia in the competition in protest against the war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian fencers from the men’s foil team refused to face Russia at Sunday’s Cairo event after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of their country last week.

Wearing the signature blue and yellow of their nation’s flag, the Ukrainian team informed the Russian team that they would not face them and then held up an anti-war sign.

The large sign, written in English, read: “Stop Russia. Stop the war. Save Ukraine. Save Europe.”

Andrei Pogrebniak, a member of the Ukrainian fencing team, shared a video of the moment on his Facebook page.

The message read: “Today the Ukrainian fencing team refused to hold a team competition against the Russian Federation. This is our protest against Russian aggression in Ukraine. Thank you to all international fencers to support Ukrainians around the world. Russia, stop the war in Ukraine.”

Today the Ukrainian national fencing team refused to compete in the team event against the Russian Federation!!! This is our protest against Russian aggression in…

His Ukrainian compatriot Klod Younes told BBC Radio 5 Live he and his teammates planned to return to Ukraine to defend their country.

Younes told the broadcaster: “I knew before the competition [that I would not fence against them.] I told my teammates and they supported me and said they would do the same.”

When asked if he would join the fight against Russia, Younes told the BBC: “Of course. It’s our country. It’s my country. I have to fight for it. I defend my territory.”

The international fencing community has hit out at Russia and its military ally Belarus, with many countries refusing to face teams from the country or demanding that competitions not be held there.

British Fencing (BF) released a statement on Monday condemning the invasion of Ukraine and saying its fencers would not compete with their Russian or Belarusian counterparts.

“We support the Ukrainian people and especially the Ukrainian fencing family. We add the voice of BF to the calls for peace made by athletes, sports organizations and the whole world,” he said.

BF later added: “It is the decision of the Board of British Fencing that, until further notice, GBR [Great Britain] fencers will not compete against Russian or Belarusian fencers in international competitions, either individually or as a team.”

A letter condemning Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was also signed by the fencing presidents on February 28.

Joonas Lyytinen, president of the Finnish Fencing and Pentathlon Federation, uploaded a copy of the letter on Twitter which made several requests to the International Fencing Federation (FIE) and the European Fencing Confederation.

These include canceling or moving fencing competitions scheduled in Russia, canceling or moving all training and meetings to be held in Russia, and providing material and moral support to fencers, coaches and the Ukrainian fencing community.

Newsweek contacted the FIE and Pogrebniak for comments.

Putin’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, with support from Belarus, sparked an international outcry and led several sports organizations to ban Russia from its events.

On Monday, the International Olympic Committee recommended that organizers of sporting events not allow Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials to participate in competitions.

He also asked that “no athlete or sports official from Russia or Belarus be allowed to participate under the name of Russia or Belarus.”

Football organizations FIFA and UEFA suspended Russian clubs and national teams from all competitions after the invasion.

In a joint statement on Monday, the organizations said“FIFA and UEFA have today decided together that all Russian teams, whether national representative teams or club teams, will be suspended from participating in FIFA competitions and from UEFA until further notice.”

“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all those affected in Ukraine. Both presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and quickly so that football can once again be a vehicle for unity and of peace among peoples,” they said.

Russia hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and the Winter Olympics in 2014.

Ukraine’s Igor Reizlin (L) battles Egypt’s Mohamed Elsayed in the men’s epee individual quarter-final match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Makuhari Messe Hall in Chiba City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan on 25 July 2021. Ukrainian fencers declined to face Russia at a World Cup in Egypt on Sunday.
FABRICE COFFRINI / Contributor/Getty
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