Vladimir Putin’s favourite synchronised swimmer who carried Russia’s flag at the London 2012 Olympics has fled the country with ‘no plans to return’.
Anastasia Davydova, 39, a five-time gold medallist and the current secretary-general of the Russian Olympic Committee [ROC], has shocked the Kremlin by joining thousands heading over the border in the wake of Putin’s mobilisation order.
Her decision is seen as linked to Putin’s war in Ukraine but she has so far not issued a statement on the move.
A pro-Kremlin media outlet went on the attack accusing the ‘deserter’ of ‘ugly’ behaviour.
Similarly, a top Russian judge has quit the country’s constitutional court, as the country’s elite abandons its tyrant president.
Konstantin Aranovsky resigned aged 57 even though the official retirement age is 70, and the constitutional court is due soon to consider the legality of Putin’s impending annexation of Ukraine.
The vice-president of the Russian Federation of Synchronised Swimming, Olga Brusnikina, said ‘everyone is shocked’ over Davydova’s sudden departure.
In 2019 she hosted him at Russia’s synchronised swimming centre which is named after her.
Davydova at 39 is the same age as fellow gold medal winner Alina Kabaeva, the Olympic gymnast widely seen as Putin’s long term lover, with whom she has been photographed.
Her war protest decision is a further indication of growing domestic unrest over Putin’s war and his recent mobilisation move, and the imminent illegal annexation of swathes of Ukrainian territory.
It flies in the face of ROC president Stanislav Pozdnyakov – a staunch war supporter – who said athletes should be honoured if they are called up to fight.
Vasily Konov, deputy general producer of the Match TV channel, announced Davydov’s exit.
‘Five-time Olympic champion in synchronised swimming Anastasia Davydova has left Russia,’ he said.
‘Match TV has a scan of a letter about Davydova’s departure from Russia, which notes that she does not plan to return.’
Tatyana Pokrovskaya, head Russian national team synchronised swimming coach, said: ‘I am completely ignorant and confused.
‘For me, this is a surprise. I can’t even say anything about this.’
Loyalist KP Sports slammed her move, with a commentary saying: ‘It could hardly be expected that at the most difficult moment in the history of national sports, one of the most titled athletes in our history, synchronised swimmer Anastasia Davydova, would leave the country.’
It said she had flouted ‘obligations’ for Russian sports.
‘Anastasia worked in the Russian Olympic Committee – she held the post of general secretary,’ said the critical article.
‘She also had a position in the Synchronised Swimming Federation of Russia.
‘In addition, she led the synchronised swimming training centre, which is named after her.
‘At the 2012 London Olympics, Anastasia carried the Russian flag at the closing ceremony.
‘And now she left the country without informing anyone… Just behaving like this is ugly.’
But Russia’s most famous figure skating trainer, Tatiana Tarasova, said: ‘This is a personal matter for each individual.’
It is not immediately clear when Davydova left Russia, nor her current location.
Last week iconic Russian singer Alla Pugacheva became the country’s biggest showbiz name to oppose his bloody war with Ukraine.
The star, 73, lambasted the Kremlin leader for sending soldiers to their deaths for ‘illusory aims’ and turning her country into a ‘pariah state’.
She demanded Russia label her a ‘foreign agent’ for her attack.
Russia’s constitutional court is expected to soon follow its parliament in rubber stamping the audacious land grab seen as illegal in Ukraine and the West.
Aranovsky – the youngest judge in the constitutional court – was known for his independent and Kremlin critical views.
But in 2020 judges were forbidden from publishing dissenting opinions.
The judge was appointed to the court in 2010 by former president Dmitry Medvedev, with whom he had studied law in graduate school.
Medvedev is now seen as a war hawk amid suspicions he eyes a comeback as president if rumours about Putin’s ill-health prove correct.
Russian lawyers were reported as seeing his resignation as a ‘demarche’ – an unusual political protest against Putin amid his war with Ukraine.
In 2019, labelled a Kremlin ban on foreigners working in the media as a ‘sign of censorship’.
He also published an opinion arguing Russia should not be considered the successor of the ‘repressive-terrorist acts’ of the Soviet authorities.