MOSCOW, May 16. /TASS/. Three Russian wrestlers were denied visas to enter Greece for taking part in the 2018 European Sambo Championship this week, Alexander Konakov, the head coach of the Russian national sambo team, told TASS on Wednesday.
The European Sambo Championship is scheduled to be held in the Greek capital of Athens on May 18-20. Three Russian sambo wrestlers were denied entry visas to Greece, namely Mukhtar Gamzayev (under-57 kg weight category), Ezher Enchinov (under-62 kg weight category) and Dmitry Samoilov (under-82 kg weight category).
"This situation puzzles all of us and we will be making further inquiries as we still have no explanations regarding this decision," Konakov said in an interview with TASS. "This situation is something new for us because our athletes are always taking part in tournaments abroad."
"When we learn the reasons (for visa denials) we will involve the international and the European sambo federations," he said. "It would have been understandable if only one wrestler was denied an entry visa because of failing to fill out properly application documents, but when the issue is about several athletes, we see a negative tendency."
Vasily Shestakov, the president of the International Sambo Federation (FIAS), told TASS later that the world’s ruling sambo wrestling body would launch its own probe into the incident and provide with all the necessary support three Russian athletes, who had been denied entry visas.
"The International Sambo Federation will render assistance to Russian athletes, who had been denied entry visas to Greece," Shestakov said in an interview with TASS. "Sports is the activity that has served as a connection between countries even through the most difficult times."
"Even when we think about the times of the Cold War, our athletes were never denied visas at that time to travel abroad," the FIAS president stated. "It is unclear at the moment on what grounds was this decision based and whether it was connected with sanctions against Russia, therefore we need to thoroughly study this matter."
In the meantime, President of the Russian Sambo Federation Sergei Eliseev told TASS that the federation would lodge a protest against the Greek consulate’s decision to deny entry visas for five members of the Russian delegation to the 2018 European Sambo Championship.
"We cannot understand why this happened because the whole team had filed documents with the embassy as usual," Eliseev said. "There were no questions for us but until the last moment several people were unable to just obtain visas. They had booked a flight for today and they had been sitting at the consulate until the last day, when [diplomats] came out and said that ‘we are not issuing visas to you’ since ‘a European championship is not such a milestone event which requires visas to be obtained for it’."
"We just cannot understand this as the event starts tomorrow, so will write a note of protest or something like this, will try to find out, will inform [Acting] Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov, [Acting] Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov. We want to protect our athletes…," Eliseev said.
Sambo wrestling originated in Russia in the 1920s, when soldiers of the then-Soviet Army developed their own hand-to-hand combat technique. The word Sambo is a Russian acronym, which stands for "self-defense without weapons."
According to statistics from the All-Russia Sambo Federation provided over a year ago, a total of some 500,000 Russians had been practicing Sambo and the figure included about 230,000 children.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in 2016 speaking about sambo wrestling and its global perspectives, that the Russia-originated wrestling should be included in the Olympic program, but it would require a lengthy and labor-consuming period.