In the wake of a politically motivated article from Russia, in which his former Vityaz head coach alleges that the former forward of the Moscow Area club beat an 18-year-old girl in Riga, Latvia in 2011, Larry Brooks of The Post confirmed Monday morning, New York Rangers star Artemi Panarin is taking leave of absence from the team.
Andrei Nazarov, currently head coach of KHL’s Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, has repeatedly criticised Panarin for outspoken forward-looking views about the regime of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Nazarov is a recognised supporter of Putin.
“Artemi vehemently and unequivocally denies any and all allegations in this fabricated story,” the Rangers said in a statement. “This is clearly an intimidation tactic being used against him for being outspoken on recent political events. Artemi is obviously shaken and concerned and will take some time away from the team. The Rangers fully support Artemi and will work with him to identify the source of these unfounded allegations.”
Nazarov gives a comprehensive account of Dec. 11, 2011, in the ALhockey.ru article published Monday, and translated by The Post. The former Russian hockey player says that after Vityaz lost 2-0 to Dynamo, in which Panarin didn’t have a great match, 19-year-old Panarin and other teammates were out at the hotel bar when he “sent the 18-year-old Latvian citizen to the floor with several heavy blows.”
Nazarov says that the police arrested Panarin until an eventual court prosecution and trial took place. But Nazarov alleges that in order to let Panarin off the hook, there was a bribe of 40,000 euros in cash. As well as a few other family members, Panarin’s grandparents also live in Russia.
In recent years, the 29-year-old native of Korkino, Russia, has publicly and firmly criticised Putin. As recently as last month, in an Instagram post ahead of expected protests in Russia, Panarin displayed his support for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Panarin posted a picture of Navalny, Putin’s high-profile critic, and his wife and two children, with a caption translated as: “Freedom for Navalny.” As of Monday, the post is still up on his website.
Navalny recently put out a message to his followers on his YouTube account: “Don’t be afraid.” Get on the streets. Do not do this for me, do it for yourself and for your future.