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Ukrainian fencer Olha Kharlan disqualified at World Championships after refusing to shake hands with Russian opponent

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Ukrainian saber fencer Olha Kharlan has been disqualified at the World Fencing Championships for refusing to shake hands with her Russian opponent Anna Smirnova, according to a report by Russia’s state-run news agency TASS.

Smirnova competed under a neutral flag, and at the end of the bout — which she lost — came up to shake hands with the Ukrainian athlete. The latter responded by extending her saber and walking away. According to the regulations, without a handshake, a bout may be considered incomplete.

Smirnova then spent about an hour waiting for Kharlan, but she never showed up. Before being disqualified, Kharlan won the bout 15:7.

Ukrainian media pointed out that Kharlan didn't decline to interact with her opponent, but simply avoided shaking hands. Instead, she offered to touch blades with Smirnova, as reported by UNIAN.

The media also observed that in January, Anna Smirnova's brother posted a photo on Instagram showing her wearing his military headgear with him in the background dressed in Russian military uniform.

Earlier reports confirmed that Ukrainian athletes were allowed to participate in international competitions with Russian and Belarusian nationals if the latter competed under a neutral flag and did not support the invasion of Ukraine (the International Olympic Committee has issued similar recommendations). On July 26, Ukraine's Ministry of Youth and Sports made changes to a government order, removing the explicit prohibition for Ukrainians to compete with Russian or Belarusian athletes.

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