Hockey star's lawyer appeals for military duty exemption
Russian hockey player Ivan Fedotov wants to serve his country best through his performances on the ice, a lawyer for the star has said.
Fedotov was detained in St. Petersburg at the beginning of this month, reportedly on suspicion of trying to avoid military service. He is currently said to be at a military training base in northern Russia.
Lawyer Alexei Ponomarev is fighting for his client to be released and argues he has not tried to dodge his duties in any way.
Speaking to RIA Novosti, Ponomarev said Fedotov wants to serve as a representative for Russia through his hockey achievements.
“Ivan is in touch, he feels good. His health troubles are over,” said Ponomarev, referring to a gastritis flare-up the player suffered after initially being detained.
“He is on the territory of a military unit and hopes for a speedy resolution of this situation. He hopes that he will be able to serve the country as a hockey player and be able to do what he loves.”
Fedotov, 25, was set to join NHL team the Philadelphia Flyers ahead of next season after signing for the American team when his contract with CSKA Moscow ended.
But the goalie finds himself at a military center in the city of Severodvinsk in Russia’s northern Arkhangelsk region, according to widespread reports in the national media.
Russian broadcaster Match TV says Fedotov will take his military oath on August 13, after which he will formally be enlisted for service. Fedotov’s destination beyond that remains unclear.
The Finnish-born Fedotov was named the KHL’s best goaltender last season as he helped CSKA Moscow to the Gagarin Cup title – the league’s equivalent of the Stanley Cup in the NHL.
He was also part of the Russian team which won silver at the Beijing Winter Olympics earlier this year.
There were suggestions in some sections of the Russian media that a dispute with former club CSKA may have played a role in Fedotov’s circumstances, with the organization traditionally linked to the armed forces.
Those claims have been dismissed elsewhere, however, as have suggestions that Fedotov was involved in the purchase of a fake military identity card in a bid to avoid service.
Fedotov’s new NHL team the Flyers have said they are “aware” of his situation and are monitoring developments.
The issue of Russian hockey players featuring in the North American NHL has become a hot topic in recent weeks considering the backdrop of the conflict in Ukraine.
It was claimed by media outlet The Athletic that some teams had fears that their Russian talent may not be allowed to return from visiting Russia during the post-season break.
Last week it was reported that Russian winger Kirill Kaprizov had twice been denied entry to the US and was forced to return home.
Kaprizov was also named in reports which claimed he was under suspicion for buying a fake military ID, but as with Fedotov those allegations were denied by sources speaking to RT.
There were also suggestions that Russian youngsters would be less appealing in the NHL draft, although that proved largely unfounded as a trio of young Russian players went in the first round of the event in Montreal last week.
The head of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), Luc Tardif, claimed that “not only Ivan Fedotov is in such a situation” with the armed forces in Russia, where military service is compulsory for all males between the ages of 18 and 27 unless they have a valid exemption.
“Our principle is that the IIHF will never cancel the laws and decisions of the authorities of any country, although it is sad,” Tardif was quoted as saying by RIA.
Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin has said that his department is ready to provide assistance to Fedotov if needed, but that “issues of the life of military personnel are within the competence of the Ministry of Defense.”