Russian go-karting champion Artem Severiukhin has refused to give a Nazi salute to celebrate his most recent victory on Sunday.
During the podium ceremony at the European Junior Karting Championships in Portugal, the 15-year-old racer pumped his chest before raising his right hand—a gesture many took to the Nazi salute. The incident has sparked outrage in the go karting community.
However, the teenager said that the gesture was being misunderstood and was not meant to give a Nazi salute. In a video first posted on Telegram on Monday, Severukhin apologized and said he never supported the Nazis, admitting they were responsible for “the worst crimes in humanity”.
“I am ready to be punished,” he said in the video. “But please believe there was no intention in my actions. There was no support for the Nazis.”
In separate comments reported by Motorsport.com, he clarified that he was only trying to address his supporters and family, who are from Russia. He is currently racing with an Italian license due to the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) ban on Russian competitors over their invasion of Ukraine.
“Someone saw a bad gesture in my actions, but it’s not. I just thanked them [my family], i am russian I am from Russia and I stand with my country.”
The FIA confirmed in a statement on Twitter on Monday that they had launched an “immediate investigation into Severukhin’s unacceptable conduct”, writing that further steps in the investigation would be announced “soon”.
Meanwhile, his karting team Ward Racing also announced in a statement on Instagram on Monday that they would proceed with terminating contact with the athlete, as it sees “no continued association”.
“Ward Racing accordingly strongly condemns the personal actions of pilot Artem Severukhin during the awards ceremony on April 10, 2022, as it considers them a disclosure of non-player behavior, an unacceptable violation of the Moral and Ethical Sports Codex,” statement reads.
In a statement reported by Sky News, the organization said the Russian Automobile Federation (RAF) is “clarifying the circumstances of the incident.” “We also report that we find unacceptable the casual expression of fascism and Nazism in Russian motorsport and Russian athletes,” the federation said.
On social media, go-karting fans debated whether or not they should be able to continue racing.
“TBH I was not at all convinced that he even understood the words that were given to him, let alone the effect of his behavior. All he understands now is the loss – the loss of his deal. Now the loss in Ukraine Think about it. Action has consequences whether you’re 5, 15 or 50,” wrote Twitter account @ditsy_woman.
“Maybe I’m just a sucker, but I feel bad for the boy, honestly it looked like he saw someone banging his chest on people who do anything really Nazi-ish — I hope the lad gets better, that’s a lot just dogpiled at 15,” wrote Twitter user @ElectabuzzKid.