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13 Apr, 2022 12:41

New claims emerge in Russian karting racer’s ‘fascist salute’ row

Fresh details have appeared in the scandal surrounding Russian karting youngster Artem Severiukhin
New claims emerge in Russian karting racer’s ‘fascist salute’ row

Russian teenager Artem Severiukhin was repeating a gesture he had been shown before he stepped onto the podium at the European Karting Championship in Portugal at the weekend, according to reports, after the 15-year-old was seen making what looked like a fascist salute.

Karting star Severiukhin has been dropped by his team and had his Italian license stripped following the incident on Sunday, while motorsports governing body the FIA is also investigating.

After topping the podium in the race at Portimao, Severiukhin tapped at his chest before stretching out his right arm in a gesture resembling a Nazi salute, then breaking into laughter.  

The incident was widely shared on social media, leading to a tearful apology from the youngster, who was racing under the Italian flag after sporting sanctions were imposed on Russia because of the conflict in Ukraine.  

“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,” Severiukhin said as part of a video message on Monday, denying that he had any ill-intentions.

The suggestion that Severiukhin was repeating a gesture shown to him beforehand and was not intentionally displaying support for fascism was given credence by the press-secretary of the Russian Automobile Federation (RAF), Maria Melnikova.

“For my part, I tried to find out what happened that day in the paddock after the events at the awards ceremony,” wrote Melnikova on her Telegram account.

“Information from the race paddock: unofficially from officials. Immediately after the award ceremony, representatives of the CIK-FIA approached Artem to clarify what had happened. 

“They received explanations from Artem, were satisfied with them and said that they would cut this moment from the broadcast. 

“Nevertheless, there are always well-wishers who will put the scandal on social networks and inflate it,” added Melnikova.

“The daughter of the head of the Ward Racing team, who worked at the race, was convinced, according to her, that this gesture did not mean at all what was then invested in it.

“Witnesses report that from behind the podium, Artem was shown what he needed to portray as a token of gratitude, and he repeated it. The video only confirms that he is addressing someone who is opposite [him].”

Melnikova said that, in her personal opinion, Severiukhin’s video apology showed “a frightened boy, wiping away his tears and sincerely regretting that his idiotic act was perceived in this way.

“And it is this video that inclines me in favor of the fact that Artem had no intent.

“He is guilty and will be punished. But there is a big difference between intentional and unintentional, even in court,” she added. 

Severiukhin has also earned support from Italian two-time world karting champion Lorenzo Travisanutto.

“What a strange society we live in. Is a single mistake enough to judge someone?” wrote the 22-year-old on Instagram.  

“Never a bit of humanity, always having to pick a side, always feeling the need to publicly blame and ostracize the wrong even when the wrong is a 15-year-old adolescent, who probably (surely!!) didn’t mean what social media is pushing us to believe and was naively one living one of the best moments of his life, which will turn out to be one of the worst.

RT

“Please be kind, remember on the other side of the screen there’s a person like you. Artem should’ve surely deserved to open and read a history book not to be marginalized from society,” added Travisanutto.

The Automobile Club d'Italia (ACI) announced on Tuesday that it was removing Severiukhin’s credentials, after Swedish team Ward Racing said it would terminate its contract with him.

RAF press secretary Melnikova previously said Severiukhin could be banned for life because of the incident.