Russia and Belarus continue to be ostracised by much of the world in response to their invasion of Ukraine. As the motorsport associations of countries like the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Finland announce drivers with licences from those two nations will be prohibited from racing there, the Russian Automobile Federation is defending itself and accusing the FIA’s Tuesday ruling of being discriminatory.
In the wake of the invasion, the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council met on Tuesday and decided to allow drivers holding Russian and Belarusian licences to compete under neutral flags. On the other hand, the two countries are not allowed to send national teams to events like the FIA Motorsport Games, while FIA officials from the nations will potentially be ordered to resign from their positions and commissions. Races in Russia and Belarus, like the former’s Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, have also been moved or cancelled entirely.
On Wednesday, the Russian Automobile Federation released a statement that accused the ruling of being “discriminatory and contrary” of the FIA statutes. In particular, the RAF claimed it violates Article 1.2 of the statute which reads, “The FIA shall promote the protection of human rights and human dignity, and refrain from manifesting discrimination on account of race, skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic or social origin, language, religion, philosophical or political opinion, family situation or disability in the course of its activities and from taking any action in this respect.”
Despite disagreeing with the verdict, RAF president Viktor Nikolayevich Kiryanov along with other officials from the association will comply with stepping away from their posts for the time being.
“The Russian Automobile Federation believes that all sports organisations, including the RAF and the FIA, need to take a neutral position on these issues, focus on sporting achievements and not use them as an instrument of political pressure,” continued the RAF announcement. “In the current situation, the priority for the RAF is to ensure the possibility of participation of Russian athletes in motorsport competition at the international level. This is what was emphasized in his speech at the meeting by RAF President Viktor Nikolayevich Kiryanov, who addressed the members of the World Council with a request not to deprive the Russian Automobile Federation of sports powers and to allow Russian athletes to participate in competitions under a neutral flag. At the same time, being the titular member of the World Council, elected at the FIA General Assembly, he confirmed his readiness to temporarily resign, as well as recall RAF representatives from all FIA commissions.
“[…] It is important to emphasise that the issue of suspending the sports powers of the Russian Automobile Federation, also put to the vote, did not find the support of the majority of the members of the FIA World Council. Thus, the RAF continues to fulfill its obligations as the National Motorsport Federation, recognized by the FIA, and will continue to protect the interests of Russian athletes and Russian motorsport.”
Many countries and sporting bodies have condemned Russia’s actions, with Motorsport UK fully banning licenced drivers from racing in the United Kingdom. Sweden and Finland, who are at odds with Russia as they eye NATO membership despite Moscow’s threats of “serious military-political consequences” if they do, have also followed suit. While neither country has F1 races, both feature touring car and lower formula events.
“The Swedish Motorsport Association believes that it is completely unreasonable to participate in competition or training in Russia or Belarus right now, and we—just like most other large Swedish sports federations—do not welcome athletes from Russia or Belarus in competitions on Swedish soil,” said the Swedish side. “This applies for the time being, at least as long as the Russian unjust invasion continues.”
AKK-Motorsport, who oversees racing in Finalnd, announced it endorses the “recommendations of the Finnish Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee that Russia and Belarus be completely excluded from international sports activities. AKK has also decided that Russian and Belarusian licensees—athletes and administrators—will be completely excluded from Finnish motorsport competitions. In addition, the participation of AKK licensees—athletes and administrators—in motorsport competitions in Russia and Belarus is prohibited.
“AKK shares the deep concern of both the Finnish Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee about Ukraine and its people. The whole world of sports must show its unity and do everything in its power to end Russia’s hostilities in Ukraine.”