Russia's star goalkeeper forced into military service

Russia’s star goalkeeper forced into military service

National team goalkeeper ice Hockey Russian, Ivan Fedotov, was arrested and sent to the Far North to do his military service, which he wanted to escape in the midst of the conflict in Ukraine, several media reported on Monday. A 25-year-old Olympic vice-champion, Fedotov had just joined a hockey team in the UNITED STATES and was to go there soon.

The TASS news agency and the player’s lawyer reported that Fedotov was sent to Severomorsk, in the Murmansk region in the harsh Far North, where there is an important naval base. The reference Russian sports newspaper Sport-Express and the media Fontanka reported for their part that the player had been sent to the city of Severodvinsk, in the neighboring region of Arkhangelsk.

“The obligation to do military service is included in Russian law”

According to several media, the player was arrested Friday evening in Saint Petersburg (north-west), because suspected of having wanted to evade military service, in full conflict in Ukraine. According to these media, Fedotov was admitted to a hospital after his arrest, because he said he felt unwell, which his lawyer Alexei Ponomarev confirmed. “He was transferred from the hospital, but I don’t have any more information,” he said.

For his part, the spokesman for the Kremlin, Dmitri Peskov, considered that “sentimental discussions around this subject are inappropriate”. “The obligation to do military service is in Russian law,” he told reporters.

Cold War hints

Fedotov was the starting goalkeeper for the Russian team at the 2022 Olympics and won a silver medal with them. Playing in 2021-22 at CSKA Moscow, he signed a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers (NHL) in May and was preparing to go to the United States, a country whose relations are very strained with Russia.

Compulsory military service, lasting one year, is very unpopular in Russia in the face of fear of hazing, the prospect of boring jobs, and, now, the fear of being sent to Ukraine. Many Russians, often actively helped by their parents, multiply the strategies to escape it by paying bribes, obtaining medical exemptions or thanks to their studies.

The opposition also accuses the authorities of using military service to punish critics of the Kremlin by sending them to remote areas where the work is particularly difficult. This is the case, for example, of Rouslan Chaveddinov, an activist close to the imprisoned opponent Alexei Navalnywho in 2019 was taken handcuffed to the Arctic archipelago of Novaya Zemlya, a former nuclear test site overrun by polar bears due to global warming.

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