Russian karting youngster comments after ‘Nazi salute’ accusations (VIDEO)
Teenage karting star Artem Severiukhin has become the center of media firestorm after he appeared to briefly make a gesture similar to a 'Nazi salute' on the podium at the European Karting Championships in Portugal, though the 15-year-old denies that he had any fascist motivations.
Severiukhin, who was competing under the Italian flag due to sanctions imposed on Russian sports, took first place in the 11-15 category at the FIA event in the Algarve, Portugal, after which he was captured on camera beating his chest twice before briefly raising his hand into the air in apparent fascist gesture.
He was then seen erupting into a fit of laughter.
Considering that Severiukhin was representing Italy at the event, it was also claimed that he could have been performing the so-called 'Roman salute' which has historical connotations in Italy but has since been co-opted by neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups.
#Russia Russian racer Artem Severyukhin salutes during the awarding ceremony at the European Junior Karting Championship in Portugal. Because of the sanctions imposed on Russia, he received an Italian sports license and competed under its flag. pic.twitter.com/uM9V9FaNnF— David Kime (@CyberRealms1) April 11, 2022
It has been illegal to perform publicly in Italy since 1952 after the implementation of the Scelba Law which forbade such gestures in the context of them being considered as 'Nazi apologism'.
It has been reported online that Severiukhin's mother explained the gesture as her son “[sending] hearts to the team and to me.”
And after the media furor surrounding his gesture, Severiukhin has since released a statement to deny suggestions that his gesture has fascist overtones.
“I would like to address everyone. About yesterday's situation on the podium. I won the stage of the European Championship and was very glad and happy,” he said, according to a Russian Automobile Federation spokesperson, who said a full video comment from Severiukhin would follow soon.
“I'm from Russia. I thanked the team and my relatives from Russia. Someone saw in my actions a bad gesture, it's not. I just thanked them. I am Russian, I am from Russia, and I'm for my country,” the statement added.
Ukrainian motorsport star Ivan Peklin, though, furiously hit out at Severiukhin's actions, saying that they go against the principle of keeping sport separate to politics.
“I call on the FIA to act,” he added.
Viktor Kiryanov, who is the president of the Russian Automobile Federation, added before Severiukhin's explanation that people shouldn't jump to conclusions as to the motivations of his gesture.
“Let's not rush ahead of time. We have already contacted the parents who are already talking to him. Let Artem first at least explain what he wanted to do,” Kiryanov said.
“There are so many things to think about. It is stupid. He performs under the Italian flag, he is in Italy, he also has an Italian license. His father says it's stupid!
“But the fact is that we see something similar [to the Nazi salute]. But this does not mean that he wanted to demonstrate it. Something is wrong here. It is necessary to listen to Artem and then give an objective assessment of his act.”
The FIA currently has a ban imposed on holding races in Russia and Belarus due to the military operation in Ukraine.
“He probably didn’t understand his actions, but that’s no excuse,” was the assessment of one on Twitter.
"He has all the means to learn about the biggest history lesson in the last 100 years."
“Must be BANNED immediately,” said another.
“Seems like he’s saluting away his career,” claimed a third.