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RUSSIA

Skier wears Russian costume in doping statement

German cross-country skier Tim Tscharnke arrived at Sweden’s Vasaloppet ski race dressed in the outfit for Russia’s national team, bringing raised eyebrows from commentators.

Skier wears Russian costume in doping statement
Tim Tscharnke has been accused of making a political statement. Photo: SVT screen grab
“Should we take this as some sort of statement?” SVT sports journalist Jacob Hård said after the costume was spotted, according to the Expressen newspaper. 
 
“Without doubt. I absolutely believe that this is some sort of way of supporting the Russian system,” replied expert commentator Anders Blomquist, a cross-country veteran. “He has spent a long time in Russia, speaks Russian and likes the Russian system.”
 
The International Olympic Committee last year sanctioned 43 Russian Olympians for doping in the 2014 Winter Olympics, stripping away 13 Olympic medals.
 
But the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the start of last month overturned the sanctions on 28 of the athletes.  None of the sanctioned athletes, however, took part in the 2018 Olympic Games last month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
 
Despite his attention-grabbing move, Tscharnke didn't even make the top ten in the race. 
 
Norwegian cross country skier Andreas Nygaard won with a time of 4.24.36, marking the seventh year in a row a Norwegian has come first. 
 
Swedish skier Bob Niemi Impola came in second place and another Norwegian, Stian Hoelgaard, came third. 
 
“It's so unbelievable that I got the chance to win today. It's a big dream to win this. I'm so happy,” Nygaard told Sweden’s state broadcaster SVT. “I was hoping for group of us to break out ahead and I had a lot of power at the finish.”
 
Nygaard was beaten to second place in last year’s competition by his countryman John Kristian Dahl. 
 
Sweden’s Lina Korsgren topped her Norwegian rival to win the women’s race. 
 
Korsgren told SVT after her victory: “This is the best day of  my life”. 
 
Tscharnke, who took the silver medal in the 2010 Olympics, announced last summer that he was ending his international skiing career, judghing that a string of injuries made it “impossible” for him to again be a world-class competitor. 
 

MILITARY

Sweden steps up Baltic defence in ‘signal’ to Russia

Sweden's defence minister has said his country is carrying out military exercises in the Baltic Sea to 'send a signal' to countries including Russia.

Sweden steps up Baltic defence in 'signal' to Russia
Swedish troops on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland. Photo: Joel Thungren/Försvarsmakten/TT

The so-called “high readiness action” means the Swedish army, navy and air force are currently more visible in the southeastern and southern Baltic Sea and on the island of Gotland.

No details have been disclosed about the number of troops involved in the action.

Sweden is “sending a signal both to our Western partners and to the Russian side that we are prepared to defend Sweden's sovereignty,” Hultqvist told news agency TT.


Ground troops on Gotland. Photo: Bezhav Mahmoud/Försvarsmakten/TT

“There is currently extensive military activity in the Baltic Sea, conducted by Russian as well as Western players, on a scale the likes of which have not been seen since the Cold War,” the Swedish Armed Forces' Commander of Joint Operations, Jan Thörnqvist, said in a statement.

“The exercise activities are more complex and have arisen more rapidly than before. In addition, the coronavirus pandemic has caused global anxiety and uncertainty. Over all, the situation is more unstable and more difficult to predict,” Thörnqvist said.


A Visby-class corvette and two Jas Gripen jets in the air. Photo: Antonia Sehlstedt/Försvarsmakten/TT

Hultqvist said Sweden was also monitoring developments in Belarus “very closely”.

Non-Nato member Sweden, which has not been to war in two centuries and which slashed military spending at the end of the Cold War, reopened a garrison on Gotland in January 2018 amid concerns about Russian intentions in Europe and the Baltic.

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