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Court Confirms: RFB Presidential Election Illegitimate

A Moscow judge rejects the Russian Basketball Federation’s appeal and upholds the December 2013 ruling.

The Moscow City Court ruled on Thursday that the Aug. 2, 2013, election of the president of the Russian Basketball Federation (RFB) was illegitimate, paving the way for a new ballot, Russian media reported.

The ruling had been initially passed on Dec. 27, 2013, by Moscow’s Presnensky Court, and later appealed by RFB. The Moscow City Court let it stand, putting the decision into effect immediately. According to Russian law, RFB now has six months to file a cassation appeal.

Last year’s vote ended in a landslide 97-63 win by former United VTB League deputy director Yulia Anikeyeva who defeated the nominee of the Perm Territory Basketball Federation (PFB), Russia’s decorated basketball star Svetlana Abrosimova. However, Abrosimova’s camp disputed the regularity of the ballot and PFB eventually filed a lawsuit demanding the vote’s annulment.

Responding to a question from RBC Daily newspaper whether Russia’s Sports Ministry would intervene and set the date of the new ballot, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said: “We shall see. But that issue should better be addressed by RFB, which is a non-government organization, and Russia’s Olympic Committee.”

Mutko added that his ministry wouldn’t leave “such a popular sport in trouble.”

“We are going to deal with this issue more thoroughly after the end of the Paralympics in Sochi,” he told the paper.

In his fresh comments, carried today by ITAR-TASS news agency, Mutko said he had ordered the Sports Ministry’s Legal Department to sort out the matter and stressed that his ministry never meddled in the situation. “However, at stake here is the prestige of Russian sport and, consequently, Russia’s prestige as a country. We cannot let that go just like that,” he said, adding that by March 12 a joint team of lawyers with the Sports Ministry and the Russian Olympic Committee would investigate the matter and propose certain steps.

“It is highly likely that we will go back together to square one and start all over again from the moment when the violation occurred,” the minister concluded.

“Naturally, I am very happy that the court was fair and the justice triumphed. After the ballot there was a lot of talk about it not having been fair, but all of that is behind us now and we’re looking forward to the new election conference,” Abrosimova told RBC Daily Thursday. She didn’t rule out the possibility of running again.

Anikeyeva’s reaction was immediate – in a statement posted on RFB’s website Thursday she said the federation was going to file an appeal at a higher court, as well as to challenge the ruling in “sports judiciary institutions.” According to Anikeyeva, several regional basketball federations, whose representatives took part in the ballot last August, had also filed appeals, which would soon be heard as separate cases by the same Moscow City Court.

“RFB’s Executive Committee will meet soon to discuss the current situation and take further steps,” she concluded.

Last week, RFB said it had received a copy of the letter sent by the world’s governing body for basketball, FIBA, to Russia’s Olympic Committee. In the letter FIBA reportedly threatened to suspend Russia’s membership in the organization if PFB failed to withdraw the lawsuit and the conflict was not resolved “within the confines of sports,” Moscow’s Kommersant newspaper reported Tuesday.

However, sending the case to the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), for instance, seems unlikely as CAS wouldn’t hear a case without a prior written agreement between the two parties to have the case transferred to CAS. No such agreement currently exists between RFB and PFB, the paper added.

On Feb. 4, FIBA issued a press release citing the key decisions from the Central Board’s meeting in Barcelona that included the organization’s stance on the dispute in Russia.

“The current institutional issues affecting the Russian Basketball Federation – in particular the court decision to cancel the 2013 election – were discussed and if the situation is not improved by the end of June, a suspension may follow,” FIBA said.

Anikeyeva’s rule has been marred by a series of scandals that included the sacking of a general manager of the men’s national team and the resignation of his successor in a matter of months, as well as the nudging of Greek coach Fotis Katsikaris to leave the head coaching job less than two months before EuroBasket 2013. After Russia’s disastrous campaign in Slovenia, Anikeyeva removed Katsikaris’ successor Vasily Karasyov, despite promising him earlier that he would retain the post by 2016.

The job was eventually handed to Lokomotiv Kuban head coach Yevgeny Pashutin who faces the thankless task of rebuilding the national team and restoring Russia’s reputation as one of the pillars of European and global basketball after its worst-ever performance at a major tournament in the post-Soviet era – in Slovenia, Russia failed to clinch second stage and finished 23rd. It also missed out on a wild card bid for 2014 World Cup in Spain after RFB reportedly recalled the bid in late January, the allegation Anikeyeva vehemently denied.

This summer, Russia will attempt to secure a berth in EuroBasket 2015 through qualifying. It was drawn in Group G with Italy and Switzerland.

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