Photo by Media Center Ukraine – Odesa: Oleg Shcherbakov, editor-in-chief of; Mykhaylo Ilyashev, President of the National fencing federation of Ukraine
August 1, 2023, 14:43

International Fencing Federation ruined plans to return russians to”the big sport” – President of the Ukrainian Fencing Federation

The disqualification of Olga Kharlan has led to a powerful public outcry that neither the International Federation nor the International Olympic Committee needed. This opinion was expressed by Mikhail Ilyashev, President of the national fencing federation of Ukraine, at a briefing at the Media Center Ukraine – Odesa.

He noted that the National fencing federation of Ukraine has now filed a protest against the decision to disqualify Olga Kharlan and is now awaiting the decision to be considered. If the decision is in favor of the Ukrainian athlete, it will not affect anything, as no competitions are scheduled for the next 60 days.

Ilyashev also recalled that the Ukrainian Fencing Federation informed its international colleagues that it would compete alongside the russians and belarusians, who are competing in a neutral status, but would not shake hands with them.

“The rules of the World Championships stipulate that we are not allowed to shake hands, but only to strike the weapon. This rule has been in place since the days of COVID-19, and about 5% of the athletes in this tournament did not shake hands,” – said the sports official.

He added that this rule was valid even before Olga Kharlan’s performance.

“Then they started telling us that the rule had been changed. But how can you change such rules on the third or fourth day of the championship? This is nonsense. Therefore, we can say that the situation was being prepared specifically for Olga, and it was a very unethical step on the part of the International Fencing Federation. I think we will also appeal these actions,” –  Ilyashev said. 

He added that such actions of the international federation, in particular, the initial admission of russians and belarusians to compete under a neutral flag, angered the President of the International Olympic committee Thomas Bach.

“We did not ruin his plans for the return of the russians by our action, but the federation did. Thomas Bach perceived the end of our boycott and the decision to perform as a step towards him. And he was very angry, because by its actions, the fencing federation buried the hope of “selling” the story that steps towards peace can be made through sport,” – Ilyashev added.

He also noted – if the United States, France, and Italy, had supported Ukraine to boycott the World Championship, all plans of russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov (the former head of the federation – ed.), to return russians would have been immediately destroyed.

Oleh Shcherbakov, editor-in-chief of, believes that the public outcry that followed Olga Kharlan’s actions and the actions of Ukrainian sports officials and government representatives will allow starting fighting again against attempts to return russians to big sports.

“This story has become a precedent for how to influence such pro-Russian sports organizations, of which there are quite a few – taekwondo, judo, chess, etc. And how to counteract creeping attempts to return russians to big sports, and there will be more such attempts… We received very good press coverage, three leading German newspappers wrote that Thomas Bach is wrong to try to return russians,” – the expert added.

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