BERLIN, March 1 (Reuters) – Chess powerhouse Russia has joined the Asian Chess Federation following an ACF vote that allows Russian players to keep competing at an international level despite the war in Ukraine and the sanctions that it has prompted.
Russian athletes have been banned from many sports and largely cannot compete in Europe due to the sanctions and competition complications caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that began on Feb. 24, 2022.
However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last month urged sports federations to create a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to international competitions in Asia.
This pathway would also give those athletes the chance to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics through Asian qualifying events as they are unable to compete in Europe.
Belarus is also under Western sanctions because it has allowed Russia to use its territory as a key staging area for the invasion.
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“This day witnessed a historic event: a chess federation, one of the strongest in the world, has moved from one continent to another for the first time ever,” Russian chess federation president Andrey Filatov said on Tuesday following the ACF vote in Abu Dhabi.
“We are grateful to the delegates for having supported our transition to the ACF at the Continental Assembly by a majority of votes. It goes to show the amount of trust in us on the one hand, and the good work achieved by our federation on the other.”
Of the 36 votes, 29 ACF delegates voted in favour of Russia’s inclusion and one voted against, while there were also six abstentions, with the result sealing Russia’s departure from the European Chess Union.
Many countries have publicly opposed the IOC’s plan to see a return of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international competitions, while Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Paris Olympics if Russians are allowed to compete, even as neutral athletes with no flag or anthem, as proposed.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann
Editing by Gareth Jones
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