The intent of the assault charges brought against Artemi Panarin without a shred of supporting evidence or corroborating witnesses by his former KHL coach, Andrei Nazarov, in an interview with a Russian tabloid appears to have been to tarnish the reputation of the end of the Rangers and to promote both a personal and a political agenda, not to pursue justice.
Panarin “unequivocally and vehemently” has denied the accusation of having beaten an 18-year-old woman to the ground in a hotel bar after a game on December 11, 2011, Nazarov alleges. The former NHL winger also claimed that Latvian officials were bought for $ 40,000 in euros after a criminal case was opened.
Panarin issued its denial through a Rangers statement that described the story as “fabricated.”
“This is clearly an intimidation tactic that is being used against him for being outspoken about recent political developments,” the statement continued. “Artemi is obviously shocked and concerned and will take time off the team. The Rangers fully support Artemi and will work with him to identify the source of these unfounded allegations. “
Panarin has been an outspoken critic of the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as evidenced for the last time by his support on social media for opposition leader Alexi Navalny, who was poisoned and is now serving a 32-month sentence for alleged violations of the probation issued at the beginning of February.
A well-positioned source with knowledge of the political dynamics in Russia told The Post that this spurious attack on the 29-year-old native of Korniko was not a direct retaliatory government measure against Panarin, but rather that Nazarov went rogue.
Nazarov, who has been extremely critical of Panarin’s opposition to Putin, is believed to have been trying to win the favor of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation and its first vice president, Roman Rotenberg, whose family has close ties to Putin.
This is not the same as a woman filing assault charges against a man 10 years after the fact. Those allegations should be taken seriously and independently investigated. This is different. There is no complainant. This is not a “He said, she said”. Instead, this appears to be a “A third party that he with an agenda claimed, without evidence.”
Indeed, Latvian journalist Aivis Kalnins reported that a hotel spokesman said no such incident occurred. Furthermore, no player from the Vityaz club who had lost 2-0 that night to the Dynamo has supported Nazarov’s claims.
Remember this too: At the time of the alleged assault, Panarin was regarded as an ordinary 20-year-old who had been completely ignored by the NHL for two years of draft. He was certainly not a high-profile athlete. As such, there would have been little reason to engage in bribery and engineer a cover-up.
So here we are again, caught in the vortex of politics interacting with sports. Here’s Panarin, who almost always seems to be the happiest man on the face of the earth, taking a break from the game for an indeterminate period of time after taking this blow to the stomach.
If Panarin was innocent before, and is too smart and perceptive to be labeled naive, he certainly is not now. There has always been the prospect of retaliation and retaliation through different means, even if this attack on him appears to have been launched by a private citizen with an agenda and not through a coordinated effort led by the Kremlin.
Yet Panarin is paying. So are the Rangers, who are losing their most dynamic, important, valuable and best player for an indefinite period of time. Suggesting that the Blueshirts can’t afford to lose No. 10 qualifies as an understatement award winner.
A Hart Trophy finalist a year ago that practically led the club throughout the first half of 2019-20, Panarin elevated the Blueshirts in each of their recent wins over Philadelphia and Washington after being sidelined by a pair with a unidentified injury. He’s the straw that stirs the drink, and he just stirs it well.
He is also universally popular within the room, as he was in the Chicago and Columbus rooms, where he split his first four NHL seasons playing for the Blackhawks and Blue Jackets before signing his seven-year, $ 81.5 free agent contract. millions. with the Rangers on July 1, 2019.
His popularity, his personality, his marquee stature, do not absolve him of wrongdoing. That’s obvious. But there is something very fishy about all this. Does not meet the smell test.
An adversary apparently motivated by a personal and political agenda has made incendiary accusations without the support of evidence against Panarin. By the way, this kind of thing doesn’t only happen in Russia.