Both the Ministry of Culture and the Estonian Olympic Committee have sent out the message in recent weeks, that Russian athletes are not welcome in Estonia while Vladimir Putin continues to wage war in Ukraine. However, a number of Russian ice hockey players will still take part in this season's Estonian Coolbet Hokiliiga, which started on October 1.
Most of the Russian players in the league, which contains seven teams (five from Estonia and two from Latvia), play for Kohtla-Järve Everest. According to a report in daily Postimees, approximately half of the players in Everest's first-team squad are Russian citizens.
Kohtla-Järve Everest head coach Aleksandr Smetanin said, that he will pick Russian players during the season, explaining that as the club is still relatively new, it has not yet managed to develop enough local players, who are ready to play for the first team in the Estonian Championship. "Our interest is in developing hockey in Kohtla-Järve," Smetanin said, confirming that all the Russian players at the club have Estonian residency permits .
"We have told our clubs that if people are in Estonia, they have the right to be in Estonia, and in that case we will not prohibit their participation in the Estonian Championship," said Rauno Parras, president of the Estonian Ice Hockey Federation.
"In my opinion, it is not the role of the sports federation to ban (Russian athletes) from competing, but that responsibility should be taken by the state," Parras said.
The full article is available (in Estonian) here.
Editor: Michael Cole