Russia's former world champion Yago Abuladze has been accused of showing support to a Russian soldier fighting in the war in Ukraine ©Getty Images

The European Judo Union (EJU) has rejected claims that Russian athletes have been allowed to enter the European Championships in Montpellier even though they have allegedly showed support for the war in Ukraine.

The continental governing body told insidethegames that all athletes from Russia had underdone "extensive" background checks before 17 were cleared to compete as individual neutral athletes after meeting its criteria.

Under the EJU’s rules in line with the International Judo Federation (IJF), only athletes that were employed by the National Training Centre in Russia and were not an active supporter of the war would be eligible to compete.

A total of 17 judoka received the EJU’s clearance but there are claims in Ukrainian media that some of those had demonstrated support for either the full-scale invasion of Ukraine or Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But these allegations have been strongly refuted by the EJU as organisers prepare to welcome more than 400 judoka from 46 countries to its flagship event in Montpellier due to take place from November 3 to 5 at the Sud de France Arena.

"For the European Judo Championships 2023, a total of 17 'Individual Neutral Athletes (AIN)' from Russia have been cleared and allowed to participate," the EJU told insidethegames.

"These 17 AINs and their coaches, officials, medical staff are all employed by the National Training Centre.

"They were subjected to an extensive independent background check - none of them have actively supported the war or promoted pro-war propaganda.  

"The investigations were conducted by an international agency and the analysis and voting procedures were done in accordance with IJF regulation and practice in place. 

"During the European Championships the athletes will compete under a neutral flag and without anthem or any insignia.

"For the first time at European Championships seniors an IJF refugee team - two female, four male athletes - will compete as well."

Ukrainian website Babel conducted an investigation which it claimed found several Russian judoka had either links to the military or showed their support to Putin.

Mansur Lorsanov represents the Akhmat club which is run by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov who has been sanctioned by the United States.

Kadyrov has been accused of overseeing human rights violations including torture and abductions.

Madina Taimazova, a bronze medallist in the women’s under-70 kilogram category at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, was pictured standing in front of a poster featuring Putin along with a group of young judokas.

The poster included the message “Za Putina! Za pobyedu! Za narod!" which translates as "For Putin! For the victory! For the people!".

Judo club Turbostroitel posted the picture before later deleting it, according to Babel.

Ukrainian website Babel conducted an investigation which alleged that several members of the Russian team due to compete at the European Championships have supported the war in Ukraine ©Babel
Ukrainian website Babel conducted an investigation which alleged that several members of the Russian team due to compete at the European Championships have supported the war in Ukraine ©Babel

Yago Abuladze, winner of the men’s under-60kg gold at the 2021 World Championships, headlines the list of Russian male judoka featuring at the European Championships.

In June, Abuladze was found by Base of Ukrainian Sports to have shown support for fellow judoka Nikita Ivkin who is fighting for the Russian army in Ukraine by liking a series of his Instagram posts.

Judoka from Russia and Belarus are being allowed to compete as individual neutral athletes after the IJF lifted its outright ban.

They had been prevented from competing in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine before the ban was ended in time for them to take part in the World Championships in Doha in May.

However, their presence in the Qatari capital resulted in Ukraine boycotting the event in protest of the IJF’s decision.