Severiukhin ended the race in the top position, and while on the podium, he made a gesture that many believed was a Nazi salute or some variation of the Italian fascist salute. The gesture was captured on camera and is available in the tweet below: Severiukhin pounds his chest two times and then stretches out his hand, with the palm rigid and facing downwards. Afterward, he starts to giggle at someone outside the camera range.
The FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) has launched an investigation into the incident and has promised to make whatever conclusion they reach public right away. At the same time, karting team Ward Racing, a privately-owned Swiss team that employs racers of many nationalities, has strongly condemned the gesture and announced the end of all collaborations with Severiukhin. There is absolutely no way to mistake the gesture for something other than the Nazi salute, they say.
As for the 15-year-old racer, he claims it was all a misunderstanding. In videos posted to his Instagram, both in English and Russian, he apologizes for his gesture, sheds a few tears, and stresses that it was not a Nazi salute. Instead, he says, it was a gesture his Italian friends told him was customary among Italians, and he only did it because he was racing under the Italian flag. He says he accepts whatever punishment may come his way.
However, a Russian automobile federation spokesperson speaking for Severiukhin tells Motorsport that the gesture was his way of thanking his Russian team, family, and friends. “I'm from Russia,” Severiukhin says in the statement. “I thanked the team and my relatives from Russia. Someone saw a bad gesture in my actions, but it's not. I just thanked them. I am Russian, I am from Russia, and I stand by my country.”
BREAKING NEWS | ???????? The racing contract of Russian driver Artem Severiukhin has been terminated by his team Ward Racing.— F1 Feeder Series (@F1FeederSeries1) April 11, 2022
Severiukhin allegedly showed a Nazi salute on the podium of the FIA Karting European Championship. pic.twitter.com/jXeCZufu7b
The incident where karting driver Artem Severiukhin allegedly did a Nazi salute can be seen here ????— F1 Feeder Series (@F1FeederSeries1) April 11, 2022
???? FIA pic.twitter.com/OOtO1LBawK