The news that more than 100 Russian chess players had opted to change the nations they represent should be of no surprise. As Ukrainska Pravda reported in September, more than 200 Russian Olympic and other sportsmen have opted to change their nationalities to avoid bans imposed on them since Russia initiated its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Only last week at the recently concluded 2023 world rapid chess championship held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Poland's number one Jan-Krzysztof Duda refused to shake hands with his Russian opponent, Denis Khismatullin, before their game.

Khismatullin has expressed support for the war against Ukraine, which included a visit to the front line where he was photographed with Russian soldiers and quoted as saying “Our cause is just and together we will win!” Despite this he has not suffered any FIDE sanctions, unlike other Russians.

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A review of the FIDE rankings shows that since 2022 a total of 192 Russian chess players have changed their national sporting affiliations; 88 in 2022 and the additional 104 in 2023.

Those who quit the Russian national chess federation last year included six Masters from the top 100 world ranked players including Sanan Sjugirov (ranked 40th), who now represents Hungary; Alexey Sarana (41st), now Serbia; and Vladimir Fedoseev (45th), now Slovenia; and Alexandra Kosteniuk, who under FIDE’s January 2024 world rankings is listed as the number 11 women’s player, now represents Switzerland.

British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 24 February 2023
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British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 24 February 2023

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In addition, five competitors have transferred their affiliation to the Russian chess federation two of which are Ukrainians: Yuriy Ajrapetjan and Viktor Filonov.

Interestingly, the Chairman of FIDE is a Russian – Arkady Dvorkovich, a former politician and economist. He was Deputy Prime Minister between May 2012 and May 2018. From 2018 to 2022 he was the Chairman of Skolkovo Foundation, a non-profit scientific and technological center founded in 2010 by the then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

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In March 2022, Dvorkovich condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying that “Wars are the worst things one might face in life …including this war. My thoughts are with Ukrainian civilians.”

His anti-war stance was immediately condemned by the Duma: “This is nothing but the very national betrayal, the behavior of the fifth column, which the president [Putin] spoke about.”

Later Dvorkovich said on the website of the Skolkovo Foundation that he was “sincerely proud of the courage of our [Russian] soldiers,” and that Russia had been targeted by “harsh and senseless sanctions.”

In August 2022, he was re-elected for a second term as FIDE president receiving 157 of a possible 175 votes.

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