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8 Apr, 2022 09:41

Ukraine chess sisters refuse to sign anti-Russian letter

Mariya and Anna Muzychuk are facing expulsion for declining to support a total ban on Russian and Belarusian players
Ukraine chess sisters refuse to sign anti-Russian letter

Chess officials in Ukraine say they will punish former world champions Mariya and Anna Muzychuk after the siblings refused to sign a letter calling for the total exclusion of Russian and Belarusian players from international events.

The Lvov Chess Federation issued a statement this week listing a host of requests for world governing body FIDE, including the expulsion of the Russian and Belarusian federations from the organization and a complete ban on players from the two countries.

The letter also demanded that Russian FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich step down because of his supposed association with “bloody dictator” Vladimir Putin.

As it stands, Russian and Belarusian chess stars are allowed to compete as individuals at FIDE events although on a strictly neutral basis.

The letter from the Lvov federation, which was shared on Facebook, contained a host of signatories but noted that 2015 world champion Mariya Muzychuk and 2017 world championship runner-up Anna Muzychuk – who is a former rapid and blitz world champion – did not support the calls.

As a result, the organization said it would “cease cooperation” with the Lvov-born sisters and initiate proceedings for their exclusion from the federation.

It’s not the first time that the Muzychuk sisters have made headlines for taking a principled stance.

In 2017, they announced they would not play in Saudi Arabia due to its treatment of women, meaning Anna Muzychuk passed up the chance to defend her speed chess titles.

“I am going to lose two world champion titles, one by one,” she wrote on Facebook at the time.

“Just because I decided not to go to Saudi Arabia. Not to play by someone’s rules, not to wear abaya, not to be accompanied getting outside and altogether not to feel myself a secondary creature.”

Ukraine chess sisters refuse to sign anti-Russian letter

FIDE announced on February 28 that Russian and Belarusian players would continue to be allowed to compete at its events, but only as neutrals and without any national symbols. The two countries were later banned from all FIDE team competitions.

Separately, the organization has taken action against Russian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin after he issued public support for President Vladimir Putin and the military operation in Ukraine.

Former world title challenger Karjakin was hit with a six-month ban which the Russian chess authorities have formally announced they will appeal against.

Karjakin, 32, admitted that he and the Muzychuk sisters were on “opposite sides of the barricades” but added he respected their refusal to back a blanket ban on Russians, saying “sports principles are not just an empty phrase for them.”  

Anna Muzychuk had criticized Karjakin in a Facebook post at the end of February, stating her opposition to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and calling on more Russian players to speak out against the conflict.