Valentina Rodionenko said she is not worried more countries will join the boycott of the FIG Congress following the example of Estonia and Poland:
“We didn’t expect anything else from these countries. Those are their problems. I don’t think the Congress will follow their lead. Gymnastics in Estonia is very weak, the same goes for Poland. These countries are not the trendsetters. Perhaps, there will be some kind of collusion, but a boycott from China, Turkey is unlikely. Those are the countries with which we have a good relationship. We are in touch with many federations. They say one thing, do another, and then claim they were forced.”
Rodionenko feels the FIG’s support towards Russian gymnasts and believes that there might be some reduction in sanctions in the near future:
“Regarding possible good news for us at the Congress, it’s no coincidence these countries are boycotting the event because they know the attitude of the FIG. But if we’ll be allowed to compete under the neutral flag on the conditions Tomas Bach suggested, we’ll refuse, of course. We have no traitors.”
Tomas Bach suggested that Russian athletes who publicly condemn the war may potentially compete internationally as neutrals. It is not clear to whom this proposal could apply. Athletes that still live in Russia and want to continue living there will not make such announcements because condemning the war is now a crime in Russia. Few people have actually been prosecuted for that so far, but the authorities would definitely make an example of a high-profile athlete condemning the war. Perhaps, some athletes who left Russia and who have their own funding, such as tennis players, could choose this path but it will not work for most of the Russian athletes no matter their actual attitudes towards the war.
At the same time, it does feel that the FIG is leaning towards lifting the sanctions off Russia and Belarus. They moved the congress to Turkey just to ensure the participation of Russia and Belarus despite the fact that delegates from some other countries, such as Armenia or Greece, might not be happy to visit. In 2020, Armenian gymnasts boycotted the European Championships in Turkey because of the war in Nagorny Karabakh (where Turkey supplies Azerbaijan with weapons). The conflict in Karabakh reignited last month and the relationship between Armenia and Turkey remains strained over this and the Armenian genocide that Turkey still refuses to acknowledge. The tensions between Greece and Turkey have also been on the rise in the past few months, with Greece bringing their entire fleet to the Aegean sea to conduct drills near the Turkish border and Turkey repeatedly violating Greek airspace and threatening to send their army to Greece.
Additionally, it looks like after the FIG allowed Kuliak’s participation in the Spartakiade, Russia plans to take it one step further and send him to the Open Belarusian Championships. The Belarusian Gymnastics Federation, a member of the FIG, is organizing the competition and thus, under the conditions of his suspension, Kuliak is not allowed to compete there. Rodionenko said Kuliak’s participation is currently in question. Not because of the ban, but because she’s unhappy with his behavior at the Spartakiad:
“Regarding Vanya Kuliak, his participation at the Belarusian Championships is still in question, we’ll see. First of all, he hasn’t been able to fully show what he can do last week in Kazan even though he worked through all the training camps with us. But he relaxed at the Spartakiad somehow, not clear why. We have certain issues with him, we’ll have a talk, he’s a special kind of person.”