EU state accused of ‘genocide’ over threats to skaters
The Lithuanian authorities have been accused of “real genocide” and “blind hatred” after they threatened reprisals against ice dancers Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas for planning to appear at a show in Russia.
Drobiazko and Vanagas are set to feature in the ‘Swan Lake’ show presented by Russian ice dance icon Tatiana Navka in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.
The news has been met with fury in Lithuania – the country which the pair represented as an ice dance duo at five editions of the Olympic Games, and for which they won World Championship bronze.
Speaking to local media, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis suggested this week that he would support stripping Drobiazko – who was born in Moscow but later acquired Lithuanian citizenship to compete at the Olympics – of her citizenship.
“I would take part in the discussion and I would probably say yes,” said Landsbergis, who claimed that the duo performing in exhibition events in Russia would be a “betrayal.”
Elsewhere, it has been proposed to strip Vanagas and Drobiazko – who are married – of the ‘Order of Gediminas’ state award they were granted by Lithuania in 2000.
Those threats have been met with anger in Russia, with Drobiazko’s former trainer Tatiana Tarasova claiming it was akin to “a real genocide.”
“An absolutely disgusting decision,” the iconic figure skating coach told TASS.
“I think that we will take them to Russia. Throughout their lives they loved their country [Lithuania] so much that they did not go compete for Russia.
“I don’t understand how in our time, in 2022, such decisions can be made and someone else can support them,” added Tarasova.
The veteran trainer, who has coached a long list of Olympic and world champions down the years, said Russia would always provide a home for Drobiazko, 50, and Vanagas, 52.
“But the Lithuanian spectators, who loved them very much, were proud of them, will be left without the opportunity to watch them,” regretted Tarasova.
The organizer of the show in question, former Olympic ice dance champion Navka, also criticized the Lithuanian authorities for their threats.
“This is absolutely disgusting, this once again demonstrates the manifestation of blind hatred for our country,” said Navka.
“Great athletes give great joy, incredible emotions with their art, creativity, talent, make the world purer, because art is medicine for souls.
“People who want to deprive those who defended the honor of their country in international competitions, at the Olympic Games, of awards and citizenship, cause me contempt.
“I’m not talking about those who truly love their athletes, their heroes, I’m talking about the people who are sitting there in power. It is not for them to take such decisions,” added Navka.
This week it was announced that Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky had removed a state grant from 1992 Olympic figure skating champion Viktor Petrenko for his performances in another of Navka’s shows which is held in Sochi.