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Mixed: Diving’s reaction to Ukraine invasion

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It is one month since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. Widespread global condemnation and sanctions have followed, but how have the organisations that represent divers internationally responded to this act of aggression? 

Quickest off the mark to react to the invasion, at least publicly, was CMAS, the World Underwater Sports Federation. Anna Arzhanova, recently re-elected for another four-year term as president of the European diving governing body to which many national organisations are affiliated, is herself Russian. She issued a passionate statement to the diving community on 3 March condemning the action.

“Nobody in CMAS wants the war, nobody!” said Arzhanova. “I rebuke not only war but even the idea of using force against other human beings. We ought to understand that the world is divided not only into nations, but also into decency and villainy, violence and goodness which have no nationality… 

“We are all humans; we all feel this pain. Throughout history, sport never divides, but always unites. I genuinely hope it stays that way.”

Ukraine
Anna Arzhanova of CMAS

Arzhanova’s speech was endorsed by the CMAS board of directors, which confirmed its solidarity and support for the Ukrainian population. It announced that it was suspending Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from participating in CMAS sporting events such as competitive freediving (given that if Ukrainian athletes could not take part it would be unfair) and would no longer issue diving certificates to Russian and Belarusian federations. 

To avoid promoting those countries, CMAS said it was removing their flags from its communications; not holding CMAS events in Russia and Belarus; suspending relations with Russian and Belarusian media and prohibiting sponsorship of events by Russian and Belarusian companies.

The International Association of Nitrox & Technical Divers (IANTD) also took a strong line early on, deciding to suspend all activities with its Moscow-based Central & Northern Asian licensee, removing it from its standards and access to its Global Database System and terminating their business relationship. Diver certificates and professional ratings would no longer be issued, said IANTD.

IANTD dive professionals in the former Soviet republics that form the Commonwealth of Independent States were also asked to contact the agency to be reassigned.

More cautious

Freediving governing body ​​AIDA (International Association for the Development of Apnea) voted on 9 March to follow International Olympic Committee recommendations, and accordingly suspended Russian and Belarusian athletes, judges, organisers and their teams from all its events including competitions, world championships and record attempts.  

In addition Russian and Belarusian nationals were suspended from the AIDA Assembly. An exception to the sanctions could be made for freedivers with multiple citizenships, with AIDA offering help for citizenship changes to be made “through an accelerated procedure”. 

Some of the biggest diving bodies were, however, more cautious about committing themselves. PADI, the “world’s leading scuba diver training organisation”, has direct interests in the form of 40 dive-centres in Russia, two in Belarus and nine in Ukraine, but declined to comment.

Scuba Schools International (SSI) told Divernet that it was carefully evaluating its business relationship with Russia and Belarus and would do everything it could to support the mission to end the war, but that it would not necessarily be making a public statement when it reached a conclusion. SDI/TDI also said that it would not be making any public comment.

Uphold sanctions

RAID had only one dive centre in Russia, but was unequivocal in its response. “Dive RAID International is a global entity, and our company adopts a neutral position regarding politics, or tries to,” marketing vice-president Steve Lewis explained to Divernet.

“We do occasionally discuss how each regional office manages political issues in each of its regions; however, we also have a very clear policy regarding bullying at HQ and throughout the RAID network. 

“Therefore, as it stands, we support Ukraine, and have ceased business dealings with Russia, its allies and agents. 

Ukraine
Steve Lewis of RAID

“In truth, we have had very little to do with the Russian state in the past. Nevertheless, we are being very careful to be sure that we uphold the sanctions imposed by various governments on specific individuals. Naturally, we understand that what we do will have little effect, but the principle of the thing is important to us individually and as a company.”

UK diving’s governing body the British Sub-Aqua Club was also approached but made no comment.

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