The New York Rangers announced on Monday that forward Artemi Panarin is taking a leave absence from the team following a Russian report accuses him of beating up an 18-year-old girl in 2011.
The Rangers issued a statement saying that Panarin vehemently denies the allegations.
The allegations come from Panarin’s former KHL coach, Andrei Nazarov, who says that he was inclined to speak out after Panarin repeatedly voiced opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Rangers’ statement
“Artemi vehemently and unequivocally denies any and all allegations in this fabricated story. This is clearly an intimidation tactic being used against him for being outspoken on recent political events. Artemi is obviously shaken and concerned and will take some time away from the team. The Rangers fully support Artemi and will work with him to identify the source of these unfounded allegations.”
As recently as January Panarin voiced support on Instagram for Putin opponent Alexi Navalny.
Nazarov, a former NHL enforcer, is a known supporter of Putin’s regime.
“We made a statement as an organization and there’s really not much I can elaborate on, other that the fact that he’s someone we care an awful lot about,” said Rangers coach David Quinn. “It goes way beyond hockey. We’re here to support him.”