Russian hockey star targeted for supporting Kremlin critic Navalny, NHL team says By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: IIHF World Championships 2017

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The New York Rangers of the National Hockey League said on Monday star forward Artemi Panarin was being targeted for his support of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny over what it called a fabricated report alleging he assaulted a woman a decade ago. Panarin, 29, is one of the few elite Russian athletes to openly criticize President Vladimir Putin. He has publicly endorsed Navalny, who was jailed this month for what the opposition politician said were politically motivated charges. “This is clearly an intimidation tactic being used against him for being outspoken about recent political events,” the NHL team said in a statement. “Artemi is obviously shocked and concerned and will be taking time off the team.” The New York Rangers said Panarin, who was a finalist last season for the league’s most valuable player award, “vehemently and unequivocally denies” the allegations against him. The statement comes after former NHL player Andrei Nazarov, who briefly coached Panarin in Russia, told the website that Panarin had been arrested after punching an 18-year-old woman in a bar at a hotel in Riga in Latvia in 2011. Nazarov has in the past criticized Panarin’s support for Navalny.

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