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11 Apr, 2022 17:33

Russian teen karting star apologizes after ‘Nazi salute’ claims

Artem Severiukhin denies he had any ill-intent after making the gesture following a race in Portugal
Russian teen karting star apologizes after ‘Nazi salute’ claims

Russian karting star Artem Severiukhin, 15, has issued a video in which he apologized for any misunderstanding after he appeared to make a fascist gesture on the podium after winning a race at the European Karting Championship in the Algarve, Portugal. 

Footage from the event showed the teenage star, who was representing Italy following sanctions imposed on Russian sports in the wake of the military operation in Ukraine, beating his chest twice before appearing raise his hand in a manner often associated with Nazism and fascism before breaking into a fit of laughter.

The FIA, the governing body which oversees the sport, has opened an official investigation into the incident.

“The FIA confirms it has launched an immediate investigation into the unacceptable conduct of Mr Artem Severiukhin that occurred during the podium ceremony for the OK category at Round 1 of the 2022 FIA Karting European Championship at Kartodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portugal," the group said in a statement Monday. 

Ward Racing, the Swedish team Severiukhin represents, has also moved to cancel the teenager's contract. 

Ward Racing is deeply in shame of the pilot's behavior which it condemns in the strongest possible terms,” it said in a statement of its own. “Action will promptly be taken accordingly.”

However, in his video message Severiukhin announced that he has no links to any fascist ideologies whatsoever – but offered his regrets at the offense which had been caused by his actions.

I want to apologize to everyone for what happened yesterday at the European Karting Championship,” he said.

Standing on the podium, I made a gesture that many perceived as a Nazi salute. But it's not the case. I have never supported Nazism and consider it one of the worst crimes against humanity.

I raced under an Italian license and won the race under the Italian flag. And the guys in front of the podium showed me that in Italy, in such cases, it is customary to hit oneself on the chest in the region of the heart, expressing gratitude.

I just wanted to make this gesture. How everything else happened I can’t explain.

I know I’m to blame, I know I messed up. And I’m ready to be punished.

I just ask you to understand me – that in my actions there was no support for Nazism or fascism. There was no desire to offend the drivers, fans, the team, viewers of the broadcast. Forgive me, please.

Russian racing authorities, meanwhile, have said that they will open their own investigation into the incident.

The Russian Automobile Federation informs that Artem Severiukhin... competed in the European Championship under an Italian license, which is why Artem has the Italian flag on the protocol and the Italian anthem sounded on the podium,” they said.

We also report that we consider unacceptable any, even an accidental manifestation of fascism and Nazism in Russian motorsport and among Russian athletes.

Our further comments on how the incident will be regarded and what measures will be applied to the athlete will follow later, after the meeting of the RAF Sports Council.”