Europe is an interesting place with a long and complex geopolitical history. However complex it might be, doing the Nazi Salute is a very simple message with no cultural or historical complexities to discern. It’s what the bad guys do. So, when the 15-year-old Russian racing driver, Artem Severiukhin, threw the international symbol of hatred on the winner’s podium, onlookers were shocked. This act was particularly upsetting given the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
#Russian driver Artyom Severyukhin, competing under the Italian flag at the #European Junior Karting Championship, showed a #Nazi salute at the awards ceremony.— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) April 11, 2022
He competing under the #Italian flag because of the sanctions imposed on #Russia. pic.twitter.com/q4wOGHPsvR
Did a Russian racing driver really give the Nazi salute on the podium?
According to The Drive, after Artem Severiukhin won the European Junior Karting Championships in Portugal, he sent up the hateful gesture and immediately began smiling and laughing like he just made a fart joke or something else equally adolescent and sophomoric joke. Except it wasn’t some pre-teen bathroom humor, it was the military salute showing fealty to one of the darkest and most-feared creatures in history.
According to the Daily Mail, the irreverent action led to swift and severe punishment from the FIA. Severiukhin was immediately fired from Ward, his Swedish racing team, despite having just won the Junior Karting Championship.
How was the young Russian allowed to compete in the first place?
The 15-year-old Russian racer raced under the Italian flag, given the restrictions imposed by sanctions prohibiting the Russians from competing under the Russian banner. The ongoing war in Ukraine forced Severiukhin under this false flag to circumvent these restrictions.
So, the young Russian driver was already in hot water, and then he took his moment in the sun to make his tribute to Nazism.
What happens next?
The FIA has refused to comment directly when probed by Daily Mail reporters. However, racing’s regulatory body did release a statement on the event:
FIA Statement pic.twitter.com/rLIvW21PaK— FIA (@fia) April 11, 2022
It’s no surprise that the infamous fascist gesture outraged and upset many, but that, along with the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine at the hands of Russia, marks a palpable shift in severity and subtext.
Adding more fuel to the hell-fire that is eastern Europe right now, other Russian athletes have done similar acts of nationalism and violence. Last month, Gymnast Ivan Kuliak wore the “Z” symbol of the Russian invasion in a world championship event and now faces a lengthy ban for his actions.
What did Severiukhin have to say for himself?
The young driver issued a wooden, tight-mouthed apology on Instagram, where he, of course, denied that the gesture he made was in solidarity with Nazism. “This is not true,” said Severiukhin, adding that “I have never supported Nazism and consider it one of the worst crimes against humanity.”
In his Instagram confessional, he explains his actions as a nod to another Axis power, Italy. Severiukhin claims he was doing the “Roman” salute. Although, this too is a known symbol of hatred, violence, and oppression. In fact, the Roman salute has been outlawed in Italy since 1952.
If it all weren’t troubling enough, it’s extra weird because Putin calls his invasion a way to “de-Nazify” Ukraine. From every angle, this stunt is perplexing. It is also worth noting that we are talking about a 15-year-old kid. That isn’t grounds for absolution, but it might shed some light on a motive or potentially the adolescent lack of any. Regardless of the reason, the gesture was received in very poor taste, at best.