This is the moment a Ukrainian fencer refused to shake hands with her Russian opponent today after defeating her in a bout, prompting a sulking sit-in protest.
Ukraine’s four-time world sabre champion Olha Kharlan faced off against Russian Anna Smirnova on Thursday at the world championships in Milan, Italy.
Kharlan came out victorious, but as Smirnova stepped forward at the end of the bout to shake hands, the Ukrainian instead held out her blade to stop her approaching.
While it wasn’t picked up on the microphones clearly over the sound of cheers from the stands, Kharlan – holding her blue and yellow painted helmet to one side – was also seen exchanging words with her opponent after beating her 15-7 in the bout.
Despite the Ukrainian saying ahead of the contest that she would refuse to shake Smirnova’s hand, the Russian struck a bemused figure on the piste, before staging a sulking ten-minute protest over the snub.
This is the moment a Ukrainian fencer refused to shake hands with her Russian opponent today after defeating her in a bout, prompting a sulking sit-in protest
Ukrainian and four-time world sabre champion Olha Kharlan (left) faced off against Russian Anna Smirnova (right) on Thursday at the world championships in Milan, Italy and beat her decisively
The Ukrainian sports ministry late Wednesday changed its previous policy from barring athletes from facing Russians or Belarusians competing as neutrals.
The new policy says Ukrainians are barred from facing those athletes who ‘represent the Russian Federation and Belarus’.
Smirnova was competing as a neutral.
Kharlan outclassed Smirnova and, fulfilling the promise she in an interview a fortnight ago in an interview with AFP, refused to either acknowledge her Russian opponent nor shake her hand at the end of the contest.
The 32-year-old – who hopes to add the elusive Olympic individual gold next year to complete the full set of titles – was cheered on by around 20 members of the Ukrainian delegation chanting ‘Slava Ukraini’ (‘Glory to Ukraine’).
Smirnova, furious at the snub and her loss, stood her ground and was still sitting on her chair 10 minutes after the bout.
Kharlan was livid with the IOC and the International Fencing Federation (FIE) for permitting Russians and Belarusians to compete again, albeit as neutral athletes.
Bularus is seen as Russia’s ally in the Ukraine invasion.
Ukraine’s Olga Kharlan celebrates defeating Russia’s Anna Smirnova, registered as an Individual Neutral Athlete (AIN), during the Sabre Women’s Senior Individual qualifiers, as part of the FIE Fencing World Championships in Milan, on July 27
Kharlan (left) came out victorious, but as Smirnova (right) stepped forward at the end of the bout to shake hands, the Ukrainian instead held out her blade to stop her approaching (pictured)
Despite the Ukrainian (left) saying ahead of the contest that she would refuse to shake Smirnova’s hand, the Russian (right) struck a bemused figure on the piste, before staging a sulking ten-minute protest over the snub
Smirnova, furious at the snub and her loss, stood her ground and was still sitting on her chair 10 minutes after the bout (pictured)
An official of the International Fencing Federation (FIE) speaks to Russia’s Anna Smirnova
‘How are Ukrainian athletes meant to feel when the IOC should be on our side and delivering justice but in fact they are doing things totally against us?’ she told AFP in an interview earlier this month.
Kharlan had, though, expressed her doubts about Ukraine’s policy of barring their athletes from events where Russians and Belarusians were competing.
Ukraine’s judokas had been pulled out of the world championships earlier this year due to Russians and Belarusians being present.
‘It is important to our nation we do not remain on the couch,’ she told AFP.
‘I am really proud of our tennis players and imagining myself in their place, playing or fencing against the people whose country is bombing and killing our compatriots.
‘It must be very hard but you know you have to as it is a way of fighting, you are the fighter in your own way.’
Ukrainian tennis players have been playing Russians and Belarusians since the invasion in February, 2022, but as individuals not representing their country.
They too have avoided shaking hands with their opponents. ‘They are right not to shake hands, I cannot imagine a scenario where I would,’ said Kharlan. ‘We have different fronts, we also have sport which is about the fight and the struggle.’
Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine (right) shakes hands with the umpire before avoiding shaking hands with Aryna Sabalenka as she looks on after their Women’s Singles First Round Match on Day One of the at Roland Garros on May 28
Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka gestures after losing her fourth round match against Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, who signalled her intention to refuse her opponent’s handshake, July 9
Ukraine signalled yesterday it will no longer bar its athletes from competing against Russians who are taking part in sporting events as ‘neutral athletes,’ a significant easing of its boycott policy a year before the Paris Olympics.
A decree dated Wednesday says Ukrainian athletes and teams will only be required to boycott if competitors from Russia or Belarus are competing under their national flags or other symbols, or have signaled allegiance to either of those countries.
The change in policy could smooth the way for Ukrainians to compete at next year’s Paris Olympics.
Ukrainian athletes previously boycotted events which allowed Russians and Belarusians as ‘Individual Neutral Athletes,’ the preferred term of the International Olympic Committee.
It wasn’t immediately clear how the decree would be implemented in practice.
The IOC favours allowing Russians and Belarusians to compete as ‘neutral athletes’ without national symbols in Olympic qualifying events.
The governing bodies of most Olympic sports have either adopted the IOC policy already or are working on plans to do so.
Ukraine signalled yesterday it will no longer bar its athletes from competing against Russians who are taking part in sporting events as ‘neutral athletes,’ a significant easing of its boycott policy a year before the Paris Olympics. Pictured: The official Omega Olympic countdown clock located beside the River Seine displays the 366 remaining days until the Opening Ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games
The IOC still recommends barring Russia and Belarus from team sports and excluding athletes who are contracted to the military or security forces.
The IOC says it has not taken a final decision on allowing ‘neutral’ Russian and Belarusian athletes at next year’s Paris Olympics.
Ukraine had previously objected strongly to the policy.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said in January that ‘any neutral flag of Russian athletes is stained with blood.’