MOSCOW, April 28. /TASS/. Ukrainian Greco-Roman wrestler Zhan Beleniuk, the silver medalist of the 2016 Summer Olympics, said he had been prohibited from going to Russia for the 2018 European Wrestling Championship, which starts next week.
"I deeply regret to say that I was prohibited to go to the European Championship and it happened only a week before my scheduled trip (to Russia)," Beleniuk announced in his Instagram account.
"I would rather not go into details, but want to say that we fought until the very end for the right to go to the championship and I guarantee that we would have exerted all of our strength to make sure that the national flag of Ukraine was raised at this upcoming European Championship," Beleniuk said.
"Everything will change in the future, including the political environment, just like it was many times before, however, no one will be able to give back athletes their youth and chances for high achievements, while they are young and strong," the wrestler added.
Besides winning the silver of the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, 27-year-old Beleniuk is also the 2015 World Champion and the bronze medalist of the 2014 World Championship, as well as the two-time European Champion (in 2014 and 2016) and the bronze medalist of the 2012 European Championship in Belgrade.
In mid-March, Ukrainian Sports Minister Igor Zhdanov issued an official directive banning national athletes from participating in all sports competitions held on the territory of Russia.
President of the United World Wrestling (UWW) Nenad Lalovic said at that time that Ukraine’s possible boycott of the 2018 European Wrestling Championship in Russia would split the wrestling family and such decisions were inadmissible.
A document signed by Ukrainian Sport Minister Zhdanov on March 14 stated that athletes of Ukrainian national sports teams had been banned not only from participating in Russia-hosted competitions, but travelling to Russia for training camps as well.
Last week, however, the Ukrainian Ministry of Youth and Sports announced that it canceled its previous directive to prohibit national athletes from taking part in all sports competitions, including international tournaments, held on the territory of Russia
The Ukrainian Sports Ministry stated that it withdrew the direct order for national athletes to stay away from all international competitions hosted by Russia adding that athletes going to the neighboring country would not receive financial support from the state budget.
On April 17, the press service of the Ukrainian Wrestling Association stated that the national freestyle wrestling team planned to take part in the European Wrestling Championship this year in Russia.
The 2018 European Wrestling Championship is scheduled to be held between April 30 and May 6 in Russia’s southern city of Kaspiysk. Athletes representing 32 countries are expected to compete during the championship in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling both in men and women competitions.
Besides hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup (June 14-July 15) and the IBU World Cup in Tyumen (March 22-25), Russia is also the venue this year for the 2018 European Wrestling Championship (April 30 - May 6), the 2018 IIHF U18 Ice Hockey World Championship (April 19-29), the 2018 World University Boxing Championship (September 2-7) as well as the WTA and ATP tennis tournaments.