Larry Brooks has reported that Artemiy Panarin is taking a leave of absence from the team following the release of a story in Russia which alleges he “beat up” an 18-year-old girl in Latvia back in 2011.
Breaking news: Panarin is taking a leave of absence from NYR in aftermath of political hit piece against him from Russia alleging that he beat up an 18-year-old girl in Russia in 2011.— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) February 22, 2021
Retribution was feared after Panarin's Instagram post on 1/21 in support of opposition leader Alexi Navalny with caption "Freedom for Navalny." Panarin, who has family in Russia, has been outspoken against Putin.— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) February 22, 2021
Here’s the Rangers’ statement on the matter.
Isabelle Khurshudyan — who used to cover the Washington Capitals and is currently the Washington Post’s foreign correspondent in Moscow — had this to say.
This is kind of odd. Panarin has been critical of Kremlin, but while this story made some headlines here in Russia today, it also didn’t seem like it was getting so much attention as to pressure him to take a leave in NY. There could be more to it, too. https://t.co/KdsylUhrY3— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) February 22, 2021
The original story can be found here and requires translation, which in a situation like this can get dicey. It is based on an account of Panarin’s former coach at Vityaz of the KHL, Andrei Nazarov. This story was also run here, although it appears to be an aggregation of the original.
Andrei Nazarov, the mentally unstable ex KHL coach/NHL goon is claiming that Artemi Panarin beat up an 18-year-old girl in a Russian bar years ago. He says it set a pattern of evil behavior that has culminated in his anti-Putin statements.— Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud) February 22, 2021
Russian media is running with this. https://t.co/mQYk2bN4H3
Panarin has been very outspoken in regard to Vladimir Putin on numerous occasions, and most recently spoke out in support of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Malamud goes on to say that while the story is certainly a political hit job, that doesn’t mean it is entirely false, and something that should be able to be investigated.
Nazarov is an extremely dubious character who has become a major Putin shill lately. There is NO DOUBT the story's coming out is a political hit job. Which doesn't mean it's necessarily false. Should not be hard to check out, if police records remain. https://t.co/SXmGOrOSCP— Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud) February 22, 2021
Aivis Kalniņš, another KHL and European hockey reported weighed in questioning the source, acknowledging the political motivations, but also expressing that more information needs to come out.
Second thing I want to stress here - Anything and I mean anything Andrei Nazarovs says in media cannot be taken seriously. He’s not very honest or smart.— Aivis Kalniņš (@aiviskalnins) February 22, 2021
Third thing - the timing is odd with this coming soon after Panarin expressed support to Alexei Navalny. https://t.co/nt4VKXri0w
I'm not going to claim that Panarin is innocent here. It's not my right nor job to do, however I will do my part and look into this and try to find out as much as I can about the alleged incident.— Aivis Kalniņš (@aiviskalnins) February 22, 2021
Update: 2/22/21 - 1:00 p.m.
Hotel spokesperson as well as multiple other sources have told me that no such incident has occurred. One person who I spoke to answered with “No, absolutely not. If you look at what Nazarov said and do a little research you’d instantly see through his lies” https://t.co/2wXPs5lGB0— Aivis Kalniņš (@aiviskalnins) February 22, 2021
This story certainly appears to have a lot of layers, and we should learn more about it in the coming days. As more information becomes available, this story will be updated.
*Story updated Monday, February 22 at 11:41 a.m. to include Rangers’ statement*
*Story updated Monday, February 22 at 1:00 p.m. to include new tweet from Aivis Kalniņš*