The lawyer for a Russian goalkeeper, who was forced into the NHL before being abruptly detained outside a St.Petersburg hockey rink in July, asked a court in the Leningrad region on Thursday revoked the draft board’s decision that resulted in the player being coerced into the Russians. army.
Ivan Fedotov, 25, signed an entry deal in May with the Philadelphia Flyers.
He was expected to be at the team’s training camp this summer, but was arrested after being suspected by Russia’s military prosecutor’s office of trying to evade military service and sent to enlistment office.
Fedotov’s lawyer, Alexei Ponomarev, has filed a lawsuit against the charges against Fedotov, which the Vsevolozhsk city court will consider this fall.
Ponomarev told Russian media that he believes enlistment is illegal because Fedotov does not live in St.Petersburg, where he enlisted. He lives outside the city, but is registered in Moscow, where he plays hockey.
“If the decision is found to be illegal, he will be returned, regardless of whether he has served his sentence or not,” Ponomarev said in an interview with the Russian publication Gazeta.
Ponomarev did not respond to CBC’s request for an interview.
Russian officials insist the incident is not political or personal.
On July 23, the President of the Russian Hockey Federation, Vladislav Tretiak, spoke to Russian newspaper Matchtv and said the law is the same for everyone.
However, Russia obligations experts and outside observers say Fedotov is being punished for his NHL ambitions and his desire to leave Russia at a time when its relations with the West are straining. bleak. political leaders is demanding unmet loyalty and patriotism from its citizens.
Sergey Krivenko, director of the Moscow-based NGO Citizen, said: “This is illegal. . Military. Law.
Krivenko, who advises soldiers and their families on enlistment rules, told CBC that while Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 must complete a year of military service if they enlist. , not everyone is called to the army and there is arbitrariness around. who and when.
He said exemptions are usually made for the elite and politically connected, while others may offer bribes. Hockey managers who are motivated to protect their players can simply phone a contact to make a claim.
“They’ll just ask the Secretary of Defense: ‘Don’t call this guy. He’s going to skate.'”
In contrast, Krivenko said, if a player is unpopular, hockey officials can ask him to enlist.
Fedotov has signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, the team that brought the Russia international to the seventh round of the 2015 NHL draft and are looking at him as the team’s backup goalkeeper.
Following their detention, the Flyers released a statement saying they were investigating the situation and had no further comment.
For Fedotov, the NHL deal was the culmination of what is seen as a breakout season.
He was the starting goalkeeper for the Russian Olympic Committee team that won a silver medal at the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February.
At the end of April, his Russian hockey team, CSKA, won the top prize of the Kontinental Hockey League – the Gagarin Cup, named after the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
CSKA, once closely linked to the Soviet military, is now owned by Russian oil giant Rosneft, whose CEO, Igor Sechin, is a close longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Yegor Bulchuk, a sports reporter for the Championat online site, said it was no exaggeration to call Fedotov one of the most promising young goalkeepers in the world.
Asked if he felt Fedotov was being punished for trying to get to the NHL, he said: “It’s very difficult to say anything accurately and reliably” when it comes to the case.
Fedotov is expected to be sworn in in the army on Saturday, nearly a month before his case is scheduled to return to court.
More hockey players get charged
On Wednesday, two other professional hockey players appeared before a judge in Russia, accused of using a former police officer to help them pay bribes to the enlistment office to evade their obligations. military service.
Russian media have reported that both players are under house arrest and could face up to 12 years in prison.
When it comes to the Fedotov case, Russian hockey players and officials have said little publicly.
One of the few who expressed support for the goalkeeper was Grigori Panin, a KHL player and captain of the Salavat Yulaev Ufa team.
On Instagram, under a photo he posted of Fedotov, Panin criticized Russia’s “sports community” for its silence, adding that the same situation could happen to anyone, especially the Russians. young players “glorify Russia abroad and defend our flag at various competitions.”
He wrote that Fedotov just wanted to play hockey, but “someone somewhere doesn’t think so. It’s a precedent for all.”
Panin did not respond to CBC’s request for an interview.
Slava Malamud, a former Russian sports reporter and now a math teacher in Baltimore, said hockey in Russia has always been closely linked to politics, and the environment is becoming tense.
“The great powers in Russia are pretty much reinforced around the idea that their country is fighting against the West. So any player leaving is definitely an ideological blow against the idea. think that.”
Fedotov’s detention, along with the sanctions and restrictions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, prompted some NHL general managers and federation officials to talk about the potential danger and uncertainty. of recruiting Russian players. But in last month’s draft, three people went to the first round and 23 were selected overall.
However, Malamud believes that Fedotov has been set an example, and every player in the KHL knows this.
“I think now what is this message to the young players in Russia [is]: ‘Get out while things are going well.’ “