Ukraine slams Israel for hosting Russian, Belarusian Sambo athletes

In a sharply worded statement, the embassy called on Israel to stop the European Sambo championship that is slated to begin in Haifa today.

 Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Israel condemned the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the European Sambo Championships, which began in Haifa on Wednesday.

In a sharply worded statement published on Twitter, the embassy made clear that it saw the participation of "these two criminal regimes" as an "insult to the memory of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens, including more than 220 Ukrainian athletes, who gave their lives in the fight for the future of a democratic European country."

Ukraine wants Israel to cancel the tournament

The statement called on Israel to take all necessary measures to stop the tournament and to boycott it.

"We protest to the Culture and Sports Ministry and the Haifa Municipality about the conduct of the European Sambo Championships. Russian and Belarusian athletes participate in the competition and [it] is sponsored by a Russian government organization that is boycotted by all Western countries," the embassy said. Russian energy company Rosneft is the tournament's general sponsor. The company was hit with EU sanctions after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The statement continued to say that "Russia uses the competition as an ideological weapon to spread propaganda and whitewash its crimes. Belarus, as a partner in the military aggression against Ukraine, is also responsible for the crimes against humanity that happened in Ukraine."

A banner with the words "We don't play with war criminals!" was attached to the embassy's tweets.

Not the first boycott

The Ukrainian team boycotted last years championship's in Serbia because the International Sambo Federation (FIAS) did not want to ban the Russian and Belarusian teams, according to the sports website Insidethegames.

"We call on all national Sambo federations of member countries of the International Sambo Federation and the European Sambo Federation to support us in our struggle to preserve freedom, equality, democratic and human values, international sports and Olympic principles!" the National Sambo Federation of Ukraine stated.

Sambo, a Russian-Soviet martial art developed in the 1920s, has gained popularity in Israel. It is similar in style to Judo, a sport Israeli athletes have become widely known for.

500 athletes and 150 staff members from 30 states will arrive in Israel to compete in the tournament, which is held in Israel for the second time after 1991.