Artemi Panarin taking leave of absence amid allegations from Russia
Artemi Panarin has given the New York Rangers a much-needed boost since he returned from a lower body injury last week, but the star forward will now have to leave the team amid much different circumstances.
In a news article that was published in Panarin’s home country of Russia on Monday, KHL coach and former NHL player Andrei Nazarov alleges that Panarin beat up an 18-year-old girl at a bar in Riga, Latvia, back in 2011. Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports that Panarin is taking a leave of absence from the Rangers in the aftermath of the story.
While it is unclear if there is any truth to the allegations, the belief if that the news story was published for political reasons. Panarin has been critical of Russian president Vladimir Putin in the past. Nazarov is a known Putin supporter who once called for the arrest of foreign players who speak negatively about Russia.
Last month, Panarin showed support on social media for those opposing Putin. Brooks says there was fear of retribution.
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.
— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) February 22, 2021
The allegations against Panarin are serious, which is likely why he is stepping away from the Rangers for an undisclosed amount of time.
John Tortorella once had to offer a graphic description for why Panarin was absent from the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Panarin’s absence from the Rangers will not be related to injury or illness. The NHL may conduct its own investigation of the Russian media story.