UPDATED: Putin or sport? Poland has made the Russian Fencing Federation choose

April 6,2023 656
UPDATED: Putin or sport? Poland has made the Russian Fencing Federation choose


The Polish Fencing Federation has withdrawn from the organization of the Women’s Foil World Cup in Poznań. “Due to the change by the Board of the International Fencing Federation (FIE) of the rules for qualifying competitors and support personnel with Russian and Belarusian passports, the PFF Board is forced to cancel this competition,” the PFF stated on Wednesday, according to Eurosport TVN24.

The rules introduced by the FIE in practice deprive the event organizers of the opportunity to check whether the athletes entering the competition meet the conditions set by the PFF (see below). “We received a message, written in a not very polite tone, that only the international federation has the competence to tell us which of the Russians are coming to us, and we are obliged to issue visas. We will not yield to being ‘vassalized,’ which is why we decided to cancel the competition,” said Adam Konopka, PFF Vice-President.

April 5, 2023:

The Polish Fencing Federation (PFF) has set a precedent of how to de jure allow Russian and Belarussian athletes to compete in international sports events while de facto barring them from the competitions. As a result, the Russian Fencing Federation (RFF) has decided to skip the Women’s Foil World Cup event that will be held in Poznań, Poland, April 21-23.


Rather than waiving hosting the event, as Germany, Denmark and France did earlier, the PFF acted by the book, following the recent recommendations by the International Olympic Committee, namely that the following Russian and Belarussian athletes cannot compete:

  • Athletes who actively support Russia’s war against Ukraine; and
  • Athletes contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies.

On March 31, the PFF and the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań said they reserve the right to strictly control whether the competitors of both countries meet the above criteria, according to TVP Sport. To carry out such control, athletes and support personnel holding a Russian or Belarusian passport will be required to submit a written statement in which they declare that:

  • They do not support the war in Ukraine, which is a flagrant violation of international law and international treaties;
  • They meet the conditions of neutrality, i.e., they are not associated with the regime of Vladimir Putin, against whom the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant as a person suspected of committing war crimes in Ukraine; and
  • They are not servicepeople or employees of Russian or Belarusian military or national security bodies.

“If a participant from Russia signs such a declaration, I will cordially invite her or him to Poland for the competition,” said Kamil Bortniczuk, Poland’s Sport and Tourism Minister.

Thrown into the dilemma of choosing between Putin and participation in sports events, the Russian Fencing Federation has made the easily predictable choice: skip the event. “They [PFF] expect such a statement, but they understand that none of the Russian athletes will sign it,” the RFF president said on Monday, according to

The World Cup event in Poznań (individual and team tournaments) is essential because it will be the first qualification event for female foilists to score points for the Olympic ranking.

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