With the Arctic Winter Games International Committee suspending Team Yamal from all activities earlier this month, the future of the Russian delegation’s participation is still uncertain.

The Games’ international committee officially barred Yamal from the AWG program on March 1 with immediate effect, citing the “attacks unfolding in Ukraine.” The suspension was announced through a press release issued by Moira Lassen, the international committee’s operations co-ordinator.

“The Arctic Winter Games International Committee is deeply concerned regarding the ongoing events in Ukraine and the grave impacts on human life,” stated John Flynn, president of the international committee. “We join our global partners in calling for peace.”

The news release did not make clear how long the suspension would last, but presently it means that Yamal will not be part of the 2023 AWG in Fort McMurray, Alta., in January. There was also no indication as to the status of Yamal’s scheduled hosting of the AWG in 2026 after the international committee awarded it to the Russian region in fall 2020.

Lassen said the international committee was unable to comment on either the timeline or the status of Yamal’s hosting.

NNSL media reached out to Yana Vrublevskaya, Team Yamal’s assistant chef de mission, more than a week ago and she replied to questions in an e-mail on Thursday morning.

“Team Yamal does understand the decision of the (international committee),” she said when asked about the team’s official position on the suspension. “We sincerely hope the current international situation will be settled and relations between our countries will be restored.” 

Yamal has been a part of the AWG since 2004 and has competed in events such as as figure skating, biathlon and Arctic sports over that time.

Vrublevskaya said the team has made plenty of friends with every jurisdiction and is hopeful those friendships can continue.

“We shared our experience and learnt a lot from each other,” she wrote. “We are open for further cooperation with the (international committee) and the AWG contingents. We believe we are still united in our intentions to develop sport in the remote northern communities, to encourage healthy way of living among the youth and to save the heritage of Indigenous peoples of the Arctic.”

Vrublevskaya did not directly address the question about the future of Yamal’s scheduled hosting of the AWG in 2026, nor did she mention the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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