MOSCOW (AP) — Russian riot police had to be sent into the wrestling ring Friday when a scuffle erupted after a championship bout.
Viktor Lebedev of Russia’s northern region of Yakutia beat Ismail Musukayev of Dagestan in an under-57 kilogram semifinal Friday at the competition that decides who represents Russia at the Rio Olympics this summer. The championship was held in Yakutsk, the province’s capital.
Russian state television showed that Musukayev pushed the Yakut wrestler as soon as the bell rang, then his coaches and supporters poured onto the ring and started a scuffle with Lebedev. Several minutes later, riot police were sent in to stop the fight.
Musukayev told the Tass news agency there was no scuffle, he was only reacting to what he thought was bad refereeing.
“I did push Lebedev, yes,” he said. “He was silent when people next to us were lying. I felt so bad. It was as if he had really won that fight.”
Wrestling is a source of great pride in Dagestan, a province in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus otherwise known for its Islamic insurgency. Many Dagestani wrestlers have won Olympic gold for Russia and the Soviet Union.
The Russian Wrestling Federation said all wrestlers from Dagestan boycotted the competition in protest after Friday’s incident and were handed technical defeats.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said he was concerned about what happened in Yakutsk and said he would sit down with wrestlers to discuss what he described as an increasing number of violent reactions during competitions.
In May, a wrestler from Chechnya hit his opponent after the end of the bout and some of his team, including a man with a gun, rushed onto the ring in his support.