Ukraine Fencing Team Refuses To Face Russia, Withdraws From World Cup

Ukrainian fencers withdrew from a World Cup event in Egypt to avoid facing Russia in the competition in protest over the war in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian men's foil team fencers refused to face Russia at the Cairo event on Sunday after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of their country last week.

Wearing the signature blue and yellow of their nation's flag, the Ukraine team informed the Russian team they would not face them and later raised an anti-war sign.

The large sign, written in English, read: "Stop Russia. Stop the war. Save Ukraine. Save Europe."

Andrei Pogrebniak, a member of the Ukrainian fencing team, shared a video of the moment on his Facebook page.

The post read: "Today, Ukrainian fencing team refused to fence team event against Russian Federation. This is our protest against the Russian aggression in Ukraine. Thank you for all international fencers for supporting Ukrainians in the world. Russia, stop war in Ukraine."

Today Ukrainian national fencing team refused to fence team event against Russian federation!!! This is our protest against the Russian aggression in...

Fellow Ukrainian fencer Klod Younes told BBC Radio 5 Live he and his team mates planned to return to Ukraine to defend their country.

Younes told the broadcaster: "I knew before the competition [that I would not fence against them.] I told my teammates and they supported me and said they would do the same."

Asked if he would join the fight against Russia, Younes told the BBC: "Of course. This is our country. This is my country. I have to fight for it. I am defending my territory."

The international fencing community has hit out against Russia and its military ally Belarus with many countries either refusing to face teams from the country or demanding competitions are not held there.

British Fencing (BF) issued a statement on Monday that condemned the invasion of Ukraine and said its fencers would not compete against their Russian or Belarusian counterparts.

"We support the people of Ukraine and in particular the Ukrainian fencing family. We add BF's voice to the calls for peace made by athletes, sports organizations and all across the world," it said.

BF later added: "It is the decision of the Board of British Fencing that, until further notice, GBR [Great Britain] fencers will not compete against Russian or Belarusian fencers in international competitions, whether as an individual or a team."

A letter condemning Putin's invasion of Ukraine was also signed by fencing presidents on February 28.

Joonas Lyytinen, president of the Finnish Fencing and Pentathlon Federation, uploaded a copy of the letter to Twitter which made several demands of the International Fencing Federation (FIE) and European Fencing Confederation.

They include canceling, or relocating fencing competitions planned to be held in Russia, canceling or relocating all training and meetings due to be held in Russia and providing material and moral support for Ukrainian fencers, coaches and the fencing community.

Newsweek has contacted the FIE and Pogrebniak for comment.

Putin's invasion of neighboring Ukraine, with the support of Belarus, has sparked an international outcry and has led multiple sporting organizations to ban Russia from its events.

On Monday, the International Olympic Committee recommended sports event organizers not allow Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in competitions.

It also urged that "no athlete or sports official from Russia or Belarus be allowed to take part under the name of Russia or Belarus."

Soccer organizations FIFA and UEFA suspended Russian clubs and national teams from all competitions following the invasion.

In a joint statement on Monday, the organizations stated: "FIFA and UEFA have today decided together that all Russian teams, whether national representative teams or club teams, shall be suspended from participation in both FIFA and UEFA competitions until further notice."

"Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine. Both Presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people," they said.

Russia hosted the soccer World Cup in 2018 and the Winter Olympics in 2014.

Ukrainian and Egyptian fencers
Ukraine's Igor Reizlin (L) compete against Egypt's Mohamed Elsayed in the men's epee individual quarter-final bout during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Makuhari Messe Hall in Chiba City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, on July 25, 2021. The Ukrainian fencers refused to compete against Russia in a World Cup event in Egypt on Sunday. FABRICE COFFRINI / Contributor/Getty