A Russian go-karting driver was under hot water for allegedly celebrating his victory at the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Karting European Championship with what appeared to be a Nazi salute.
After winning the first round of the kart racing competition held at Portimao, Portugal on Sunday, 15-year-old Artem Severiukhin stepped onto the podium, pounded his chest twice, extended his right arm and laughed.
Even though many believed his gesture to be the Nazi salute, his supporters claimed Severiukhin did a Roman salute.
However, people pointed out the mythical Roman salute was a relatively modern invention and still considered a symbol of Italian fascism.
According to The Washington Post, Severiukhin was competing under the Italian banner because the governing body of FIA placed sanctions on Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin justified his decision to invade Ukraine as one meant to "denazify" the country–even though Ukraine's democratically-elected President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is Jewish and had relatives who died in the Holocaust.
"The purpose of this operation is to protect people who for eight years now have been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kyiv regime," said Putin, according to an English translation from the Russian Mission in Geneva.
"To this end, we will seek to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation."
The FIA issued a statement indicating they have launched an investigation into the "unacceptable conduct" of Severiukhin and promised “further steps will be taken in this case.”
Severiukhin's team, Ward Racing, also issued a statement on Monday saying they are "deeply in shame of the pilot's behavior which it condemns in the strongest possible terms."
The privately-owned Swedish team that "unites pilots from different countries, acting under licenses of various countries," stated "action will promptly be taken accordingly."
The statement said the Russian teen's actions at Sunday's award ceremony "were exclusively individual and do not represent the views and values of Ward Racing in any manner."
"On the contrary, Ward Racing stands with the international community condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine and expresses its solidarity with the people suffering because of this unprovoked and horrific attack."
The team also said they considered Severiukhin's actions a "manifestation of unsportsmanlike behavior," and "an unacceptable violation of the ethical and moral sports codex."
Ward Racing ended its statement by declaring they will proceed with terminating the teen's racing contract.
People called for Severiukhin to be banned from the sport.
Others thought the teen should be given some slack due to his age.
Severiukhin responded to the backlash by posting a video on the Russian Automobile Federation’s Telegram page, apologizing for "what happened yesterday at the European Karting Championship."
He added the gesture that “many perceived as a Nazi salute" was misunderstood.
“I have never supported Nazism,” he said.
He also considered the actions of Nazis to be among “the worst crimes against humanity.”
While maintaining that his gesture was misunderstood, Severiukhin called himself a "fool" and said he was “ready to be punished” for his actions.
“Please believe that there was no intention in my actions. There was no support for Nazis.”