The acting chair of a key parliamentary committee has reiterated the need for sanctions on Russian sportspeople amid news former F1 driver Nikita Mazepin is challenging the UK Foreign Secretary to overturn his.
Mazepin and his father Dmitry were sanctioned by the UK, European Union and Canada as part of wide-reaching measures taken after Russian president Vladimir Putin chose to illegally invade Ukraine last year.
The sanctions placed on a number of individuals – including Dmitry Mazepin, who was deemed a close associate of the Kremlin – led to widespread change in sport.
Mazepin in a spin
Roman Abramovich had to sell Premier League club Chelsea, Wimbledon banned Russians from competing at the famous tennis championships, and Mazepin was ditched from his Haas F1 seat – the F1 outfit also ended its sponsorship deal with Russian chemicals company Uralkali, which was helping to fund Mazepin’s seat.
Mazepin is challenging foreign secretary James Cleverly in the high court to get his sanctions lifted – the 24-year-old wants to race in Formula 1 next year.
But the interim chair of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport parliamentary committee Damian Green MP has insisted that sanctions must remain, even on sportspeople.
“It may be hard for some individual Russian sports people but it is important to maintain these sanctions to demonstrate the world’s disgust at Putin’s actions in Ukraine,” he told City A.M. this morning.
“It is also important to stop the Russian flag being displayed at sporting events for as long as the war is going on.”
Neither Mazepin or his father were present at the hearing this week but his lawyer Rachel Scott said the challenge was one of “urgency” due to a desire to discuss potential seats at F1 teams next year.
While the likes of Wimbledon have lifted their ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes competing in the sport due to fines handed out to the Lawn Tennis Association, Britain maintains a strong position on banning athletes from competing under their own flags.
And a year out from the next summer Olympics, Paris 2024, the International Olympic Committee have suggested that there could be a way in for athletes from the two warmongering countries – Ukraine and others have threatened boycotts.
“Russia has shown nothing but contempt for the values of the Olympics movement and its flouting of the rules has extended beyond the current conflict, as we saw with its involvement in doping programmes,” DCMS secretary of state Lucy Frazer said last month.
“The facts are incontrovertible – Russia has devastated Ukraine, Russia has killed Ukrainian athletes and Russia has smashed Ukraine’s sports infrastructure to smithereens.
“This regime does not deserve to see its athletes line up on the starting blocks of races or stand on podiums during medal ceremonies as representatives of their countries.
“As part of our absolute commitment to Ukraine and Ukrainian sovereignty, we have used the convening power of sport to bring together a coalition of 35 countries opposed to Russian and Belarusian participation in international sport.”
A judge will oversee another hearing on Mazepin in the capital next month.
A foreign office spokesperson added: “Since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the UK and our international partners have imposed an unprecedented package of sanctions in order to damage Putin’s capacity to fund his illegal war, undermine his military machine, and target those who prop up Putin and his regime.
“UK sanctions are designed within a fair and transparent legal framework that provides protections for those designated. This means that every sanctioned individual or entity has the right to challenge their designation and there is a clear legal route to do so.”