A teenage Russian go-kart champion is under fire for celebrating a win with what appeared to be a Nazi salute.
Artem Severiukhin, 15, pounded his chest and extended his right arm as he stood on the podium following his victory Sunday in the first round of the FIA Karting European Championship in Portimao, Portugal. The Russian driver was competing with an Italian license because the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, which governs Formula One and other bodies, has banned Russian competitors since that country’s invasion of Ukraine, The Washington Post reported. Severiukhin made the seemingly offensive gesture while the Italian anthem was playing — and appeared to laugh about it afterward.
FIA issued a statement Monday on Twitter that it has launched an “immediate investigation into the unacceptable conduct” of Severiukhin. It promised that “further steps will be taken in this case.”
Severiukhin’s team, Ward Racing, also said in a statement Monday on Instagram that it would no longer have any relationship with the teenager and that it plans to “proceed with terminating his racing contract.”
In a statement, the Sweden-based team said: “The actions of Artem Severiukhin during the award ceremony on 10 April 2022 were exclusively individual and do not represent the views and values of Ward Racing in any manner.”
It added: “On the contrary, Ward Racing stands with the international community condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and expresses its solidarity with the people suffering because of this unprovoked and horrific attack.”
HuffPost has reached out to both the FIA and Ward Racing for comment but did not receive an immediate response.
Severiukhin posted a video message on the Russian Automobile Federation’s Telegram channel Monday in which he apologized “for what happened yesterday at the European Karting Championship” for the gesture that “many perceived as a Nazi salute.”
Severiukhin asserted that the gesture was misunderstood and the belief that it was a Nazi saltute was “untrue.”
He said, “I have never supported Nazism,” and added that he considered their actions among “the worst crimes against humanity.”
He said that although he knows he is a “fool” and is “ready to be punished” for his actions, he insisted that his gesture was misunderstood.
“Please believe that there was no intention in my actions,” he said. “There was no support for Nazis.”