International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association Decides to Move 2017 World Championship From Sochi

December 14, 2016
Photo by Issei Kato/Reuters

LIVE UPDATES: The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association, organizer of the World Championship event in Sochi in February 2017, has decided to move the event from Russia due to a potential boycott by countries and athletes concerned over Russian doping.

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Russian State Duma Passes Third and Final Version of Law Enabling Draftees to Serve in Armed Combat Abroad

The State Duma or lower house of the Russian parliament passed in the third and final reading today a law enabling military servicemen, including draftees, to sign short-term contracts, RBC reported, citing Interfax.

The law was introduced last month as we reported. 

The measure was taken due to “a change in the military political situation,” the authors of the law said in accompanying explanations for the initiative. This was likely a reference to the war in Syria, as a number of commentators in Russia have pointed out.
Such contracts “enable rapid resolution of short-term but important tasks related to participation in peace-keeping operations and the battle against terrorist and extremist organizations,” said the explanation.
Both soldiers in the reserves and draftees with the rank of soldier, sailor or sergeant would be eligible to sign such contracts for two to three years. Those with the rank of ensign, midshipman or officer may sign contracts up to five years. Certain categories of servicemen may also sign contracts from six months to one year.
The new law makes it possible for new recruits, who previously were not sent to fight abroad, to sign contracts as they approach the end of their draft term. 
The law doesn’t address the issue of mercenaries and private military contractors which are still banned in Russia. There is a move to legalize them although efforts to propose draft laws have so far failed in the Duma. Such mercenaries already exist, however, as we have seen with the coverage of PMC Wagner, a private military contractor whose leader was recently given an award for heroism in combat.

The law now goes to the Federation Council for a vote that will likely pass, then to President Vladimir Putin to be signed into a law.

The intiaitive comes as Russian state TV confirms for the first time that Russian special forces are fighting on the ground in Syria. 

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association Decides to Move 2017 World Championship From Sochi
The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association (IBSA), the organizer of a world championship bobsled and skeleton event due to take place in Sochi in February 2017, has decided to pull the event from Russia due to a potential boycott by countries and athletes concerned over Russian doping, the New York Times and Gazeta reported.
The IBSA will announce a new venue for their event in a few days. Russia has said it will not boycott the relocated event.
Gazeta asked what other events might be boycotted; the IBSA move is the first decision of an international federation to withdraw a tournament from Russia following the doping scandals in the past year. Last Friday saw the release of Part II the World Anti-Doping Association’s McClaren Independent Investigation Report, which determined that the doping system was “centralized” in Russia.
More than 1,000 athletes across different sports were said to have been involved in, or benefited from doping.
The New York Times reported that athletes had other concerns, such as the hacking of their medical reports earlier this year.
Gazeta said that Russian athletes had hoped that bans would not be applied to future sports events. Just yesterday, December 13, Vitaly Mutko, vice premier for sports, said “nothing threatened” the bobsled tournament in Sochi.
Russia is slated to host the World Cup in soccer but according to some media reports, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) has been quietly holding talks with Qatar, scheduled to be the 2022 host, about the possibility of hosting in 2018 instead of Russia.
For Russia, the main point of the World Cup is not even the new stadiums but the infrastructure for cities — roads, air ports, hotels, says Gazeta. This means an opportunity for lucrative contracts.
President Vladimir Putin awarded contracts for the Sochi Olympics to his closest cronies among the oligarchs, spending more than $50 billion.

Gazeta believes that the Kremlin will not mind much if the World Cup is canceled because it can pose as a victim of “politicized” actions by the West. Aside from the Olympics and some soccer games, says Gazeta, Russians do not attend sports events of various types in large numbers. The 2016  Ice Hockey World Championship lost money, even though hockey is likely Russia’s most popular sport.

What’s not likely, says Gazeta, is that Russia will own up to its wrongs and correct them.

 — Catherine A. Fitzpatrick