Russian stars ‘courageous’ for backing government – minister
Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin said Olympic champion swimmer Evgeny Rylov and chess grandmaster Sergey Karjakin have been “courageous” by indicating their support for the government.
Appearing at the ‘We Are Together. Sport’ forum in Moscow on Wednesday, the grateful Matytsin praised the two stars for their backing in recent weeks – a stance which has seen Karjakin banned by the chess authorities while Rylov is facing an investigation from international swimming officials.
“Today we have Sergey Karjakin and Evgeny Rylov with us. I want to thank you for your courageous patriotic position,” said Matytsin, addressing both men.
“For the example that you gave for all sportspeople, for all Russians, how to defend sport and to defend the position of our government, without hesitation.”
Rylov appeared at a mass meeting at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium earlier this month which marked the reunification of Russia and Crimea.
The swimmer – who won double gold at the Tokyo Olympics last summer – was seen bearing a ‘Z’ symbol on his jacket, which has featured on Russian military hardware in Ukraine and has been adopted as a show of support for Russian forces.
Rylov’s attendance at the event has triggered an investigation by the FINA Disciplinary Panel, while the 25-year-old has also been stripped of a sponsorship deal with Speedo.
Before Russian and Belarusian swimmers were banned from this summer’s World Championships in Budapest, Rylov had said he would boycott the event in solidarity with Russian Paralympic athletes who had been barred from competing at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.
Also praised by Matytsin was chess star Karjakin, who was slapped with a six-month ban by governing body FIDE this month for his vocal support of the Russian operation in Ukraine.
Karjakin, a former world rapid and blitz champion who contested the world title against Magnus Carlsen in 2016, issued his full support for Russian President Vladimir Putin at the outset of the offensive in Ukraine.
He reacted to the news of his ban by suggesting chess bosses had been desperate to deny him a place at the upcoming FIDE Candidates Tournament, the winner of which will challenge Carlsen for the world title.
Karjakin, 32, has also suggested he could set up a rival organization to FIDE.