September 10th saw the celebration of the international Fencing Day. Under the motto ‘How will you celebrate: ‘Fencing is for life’, the International Fencing Federation asked its members to show how they will celebrate the day. The Ukrainian Federation submitted a stunning contribution. The clip ends by asking the international fencing community to bar Russian and Belarusian teams from participating in international events until their respective countries end their aggression against Ukraine.
World Fencing Day in Ukraine: when your country is a battlefield!
This is indeed an urgent necessity for neither Russian nor Belarusian fencers have been vocal about the war against Ukraine. More than anything else, sports events have been used by the Soviet Union and its successor state the Russian Federation for disinformation and propaganda purpose. Accepting the participation of Russian or Belarusian nationals would help the propaganda apparatus convey the message of ‘business as usual’. It is also noteworthy that Russian and Belarusian competitors are often tied to clubs with links to the security apparatus (Police, intelligence and army).
It comes as no surprise in this context that the Ukrainian Fencing Federation has officially appealed to the FIE to bar Russia and Belarus from participating in international events.
Russia’s influence has been declining since former FIE President Alisher Usmanov stepped aside in March 2022. Meanwhile, the Uzbek born Russian oligarch whose residences have been raided by German police, is being accused by German authorities of extensive fraud and laundering through an "extensive and complex network of companies and corporations" to hide financial assets.
Sports, it is often argued, should stay away from politics. It is perhaps true in some cases, but in this case, it should not be associated with criminal activities and warmongering.
Fencing also requires having a strong spine. Time to show it, say no to Russian and Belarusian participation to official competitions!
Author Nathalie Vogel - Senior Fellow European Center for security policy in Prague, Kremlin Watch program. She fences in her free time.
Cover photo - The FIE international competitions / insidethegames.biz /Getty Images