Artemi Panarin Leaves Rangers, Denies Allegation He Assaulted Woman in 2011

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2021

New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) in action during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin will be taking a leave of absence after a Russian newspaper article alleged he assaulted an 18-year-old woman in 2011.

The team released a statement Monday, with Panarin denying any assault occurred.

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Andrei Nazarov, Panarin's former coach with the KHL's HC Vityaz, made the allegation. Nazarov and Panarin have been at odds over the Rangers star's criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Panarin is perhaps the highest-profile Russian athlete to speak out against Putin, the authoritarian leader who has had several critics in the country die under suspicious circumstances during his time in office.

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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.

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The allegations are coming from a former head coach of Panarin's while he was with the KHL's Vitayaz, Andrei Nazarov, who has repeatedly criticized Panarin for his outspoken position on Russian president Vladimir Putin's regime.

“I think he no longer understands what’s right and what’s wrong,” Panarin said in 2019. “Psychologically, it’s not easy for him to judge the situation soberly. He has a lot of people who influence his decisions. But if everyone is walking around you for 20 years telling you what a great guy you are and how great a job you are doing, you will never see your mistakes.”

Panarin joined the Rangers ahead of the 2019-20 season and has been their best player since his arrival. He has 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 14 appearances this season.