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10 Aug, 2022 15:14

Politician hits out after EU nation punishes skaters for Russian show

Lithuania has stripped ice dance duo Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas of a state award
Politician hits out after EU nation punishes skaters for Russian show

Lithuania is making “outcasts out of national heroes” by punishing former Olympic skating stars Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas for appearing at an exhibition show in Sochi, according to Russian State Duma Deputy Dmitry Svishchev.

Drobiazko, 50, and partner Vanagas, 52, are currently skating in the ‘Swan Lake’ show organized by Russian former Olympic ice dance champion Tatiana Navka on the Black Sea coast.

In response, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda announced in a social media post on Wednesday that he was stripping Drobiazko and Vanagas of the ‘Order of Gediminas’ bestowed on them back in 2000.

Nauseda claimed the pair were “spitting on” the memory of those killed in the Ukraine conflict by performing in Russia.

The Lithuanian leader has also suggested that he could seek to change the law so that the Russian-born Drobiazko is stripped of the Lithuanian citizenship she received in 1993.

Drobiazko and Vanagas have skated at five editions of the Olympics and won bronze for Lithuania at the 2000 World Championships.

Russian politician Svishchev – who is head of the Duma Sports Committee – condemned the Lithuanian authorities and said Russia would seek to support the pair.

“[The Lithuanian] parliament, the foreign minister, the president – consistently said that if the athletes continue to participate in Russian shows, they will be deprived of awards and even citizenship,” Svischev told RIA Novosti.

“The state award has already been withdrawn. I haven’t heard or seen anything like this before.

“Champions who have won medals for a country and love (winter) sports, (in a country) where there are very few medals.

“And instead of idolizing and creating conditions for them to continue working, raising children (they are deprived of awards)...

“Any country should be proud of its heroes, and here they promise to make outcasts out of heroes.

“Russia, I think, should extend a helping hand to them. We will closely monitor developments,” he added.

Other figures in Russia have reacted with similar dismay at the sanctions for the ice dance couple.

Iconic figure skating coach Tatiana Tarasova described it as a “real genocide,” while show organizer Navka called it “blind hatred” towards Russia.

Drobiazko and Vanagas are not the only skaters to be punished for appearing at shows in Russia.

Ukrainian 1992 Olympic champion Viktor Petrenko was stripped of a state grant in his homeland by President Vladimir Zelensky after skating in another of Navka’s shows in Sochi.

Despite the row, organizers have said Drobiazko and Vanagas will continue to feature in ‘Swan Lake’ as planned, with the show running until September 18 at Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace.  

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