15-year-old Russian race driver who appeared to make a Nazi salute says he was a 'fool' but doesn't support fascism
- Artem Severiukhin, 15, won a European Championship karting race in Portugal Sunday.
- As he celebrated he appeared to do a Nazi salute, sparking outrage in the motorsport world.
Artem Severiukhin, a 15-year-old Russian kart racer, denied making a Nazi salute and supporting fascism after he appeared to make the gesture after a race over the weekend.
Severiukhin appeared to make the gesture after winning the first round of the European Championship in Portugal on Sunday in the OK category, karting's second-highest level of competition.
As he stood on the top step of the podium, Severiukhin pounded his chest and raised his arm into the apparent Nazi salute, before breaking into laughter for several seconds.
Watch the incident here:
—Danny Armstrong (@DannyWArmstrong) April 11, 2022
The teenager was competing under the Italian flag due to sanctions placed on Russian athletes following their country's invasion of Ukraine. Under the rules of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) — motorsport's global governing body — Russian athletes must compete under either a neutral flag or the flag of another nation to which they are affiliated.
But on Monday, he published two videos on Instagram, one in English and one in Russian, saying he did not intend to make a Nazi gesture.
In the English-language video, Severiukhin appears visibly upset and mumbles frequently, making parts of his speech difficult to decipher.
"Standing on the podium, I depicted a gesture that many perceived as a Nazi greeting. But that's not true. I have never supported Nazism and consider it one of the worst crimes against humanity," he said.
Severiukhin went on to say that pounding his chest was meant as a gesture of respect for the fact that he is racing under the Italian flag.
"The guys in front of the podium showed me that in Italy, in such cases, it is customary to hit oneself on the chest in the region of the heart, expressing gratitude," he said.
He did not provide any explanation for the straight-armed gesture he made immediately afterwards, and went on to say: "I can't explain how everything else happened. I know it's my fault, I know I'm a fool, and I'm ready to be punished."
"But please understand that I did not support Nazism or fascism with this gesture."
The OK karting category, in which Severiukhin was competing, is a key feeder for higher levels of karting and elite motorsport. F1 drivers including Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc are notable former participants.
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