ISL Says Russia-Ukraine Conflicts Won’t Impact Funding of Future Seasons

The geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe escalated dramatically on Monday, as the United States closed its embassy in Ukraine and Russia continued to move military assets close to the Ukrainian border, including in the Black Sea, with many fearing that a Russian invasion could come as early as this week.

Estimates by the United States say that Russia has amassed more than 130,000 troops near Ukraine’s border in recent weeks, and the country has been conducting joint military exercises with Belarus

Russia said on Tuesday that they have withdrawn some troops from the border, though Ukrainian officials have doubted those claims; so far, several attempted diplomatic interventions by other countries, including France and the United States, have come up short.

Russia says that their primary concern is NATO encroaching closer to their territory in Eastern Europe, make demands that the defense organization will not admit Ukraine as a member.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that his country still believes there is room for a diplomatic solution, even as Russia ramps up its brinksmanship ahead of such a solution.

A potential landwar in Ukraine would undoubtedly result in wide-scale western sanctions on Russia. It would also put to test the global sporting community’s resolve to an even greater degree than the ongoing Winter Olympics have in China.

This is especially true in swimming, where Russia and Ukraine are relevant on two athletic fronts.

Russian Hosting of Major Meets

While there have been wars and deadly military skirmishes in the last 50 years, none have really been at the potential scale of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia has become a primary host of major global sporting events, especially true in aquatics.

In 2022 alone, Russia is hosting the FINA World Junior Championships in August and the World Short Course Championships in December, both in Kazan.

They are also scheduled to host legs of the Artistic Swimming World Series and FINA Diving World Series from April 8-10.

This could become a problem for a number of reasons, not the least of which could be the reasonable hesitancy of Ukrainian athletes to travel to Russia while the two countries are involved in a large-scale war – even if they were able to get visas.

That could impact swimmers like Mykhailo Romanchuk of Ukraine, who won bronze in the 800 free and silver in the 1500 free at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Ukraine is also home to one of the best artistic swimming programs in the world (they won bronze in both Olympic events in Tokyo) and have a number of elite divers as well.

A Russian invasion of Ukraine would undoubtedly be greeted with big economic sanctions from Europe and the United States that would damage the Russian economy. Experts have said that Russia has done work to make their economy more resilient to western sanctions since their invasion of Crimea in 2014, but that these sanctions could still do major damage to the Russian economy.

That could mean a lot of things for the country’s hosting – both a change in the financial calculus for hosting the meets, as well as potential counter-sanctions that could make athlete travel to-and-from Russia if not more difficult, at least less comfortable for athletes.

International sports bodies have generally made efforts to stay neutral in these sorts of geopolitical crises, especially with the amount of money that flows to their coffers from countries like Russia. They have had to draw the line, though, where athletes were unable to compete fairly and safely. We saw this when Malaysia was removed as the host of the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships over the country’s ongoing refusal to grant visas to Israeli athletes.

ISL Funding

The other, more novel, challenge presented comes in funding for the International Swimming League, which is scheduled to host its fourth season in 2022. To date, the league’s $20+ million annual budget has been almost entirely funded by Soviet-born Ukrainian billionaire Konstantin Grigorishin.

Grigorishin began to grow his wealth in the early 1990s after the collapse of the soviet union in metals trading. IN the late 1990s, when there was a massive privatization of industry in Ukraine, he invested in a number of businesses that eventually led to the formation of the Energy Standard Group – the business that has a name synonymous with his ISL club.

According to the Kyiv Post, Grigorishin was accused of evading taxes in Russia in 2015, accusations that Grigorishin has denied.

That caused him to move back to Ukraine and obtain Ukrainian citizenship.

Grigorishin’s wealth is largely tied to the Ukrainian economy, and in some regards to the relationship between Russia and Ukraine: in 2014, he helped negotiate a deal to import coal and electricity from Russia to Ukraine.

Grigorishin has been locked in a number of battles between Russia and Ukraine, including being accused of paying taxes to a separatist group in Luhansk, most of which has been met with denials from Grigorishin.

In summation, it’s a very complicated financial situation, but one that could be negatively damaged by a Russian invasion of Ukraine and the impacts on both countries’ economies.

An ISL spokesperson says that they are “aware of the concerns of the community and the uncertainty that surrounds the swimming calendar moving forward.

“Even though we are confident that future seasons will not be affected by any geopolitical situations, we are also working on a variety of things and will release news when we are ready to.”


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2 years ago

Even as the facts support inquiry, Grigorshin denies anything that counters his narrative. And I don’t mean just on the subject at hand, but throughout his business history.

I don’t see why anyone but the desperate would work for him, especially since he expects elite labor on loan and has burned institutional bridges in every country he’s ever worked in.

2 years ago

More positive headlines for the ISL

Steve Nolan
2 years ago

that shirt must’ve cost at least $500 because of how complicated the pattern is.

Coach Macgyver
Reply to  Steve Nolan
2 years ago

If you relax your eyes and stare at it long enough an image will pop out.

Reply to  Coach Macgyver
2 years ago

An NFT perhaps?

Pay the damn swimmers before no one participates and everyone loses interest.

Reply to  Coach Macgyver
2 years ago

It’s not a sailboat, it’s a schooner.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Coach Macgyver
2 years ago

comment image

Reply to  Steve Nolan
2 years ago

He’s rich enough to own his own Dan Flashes franchise, no?

Steve Nolan
Reply to  HulkSwim
2 years ago

A significantly more lucrative venture than the ISL.

(Also I’m so happy someone got it.)

2 years ago

“We didn’t pay you last year and we won’t pay you next year either”

2 years ago

How come Ukraine has never hosted any of the ISL competitions?

Big Mac #1
Reply to  Ghost
2 years ago

What are their facilities

2 years ago

3hrs after claiming they’ve withdrawn troops Putin claims a “genocide” is happening in Ukraine, less than 24hrs after the head of RT, Putin’s state network, went on TV claiming Russia must invade Ukraine to save Russian speakers from a genocide that is underway in Ukraine.

Draw you own conclusions, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on ISL or anything else relating to Russia or Ukraine.

2 years ago

How can they seriously make this claim right now

Reply to  Virtus
2 years ago

Because he’s an oligarch who will mysteriously disappear if he undercuts Putin in any way?

Last edited 2 years ago by ACC
Stewart 100 back gold in Fukuoka
Reply to  ACC
2 years ago

He’s Ukrainian now. And if I recall correctly, he was wanted by Russia for escaping taxes.

Reply to  Stewart 100 back gold in Fukuoka
2 years ago

Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned in Salisbury, England.

Reply to  Stewart 100 back gold in Fukuoka
2 years ago

He still holds Russian citizenship, as well as Cypriot. The latter is very interesting, because Cyprus is where a *lot* of oligarchs tied to the Kremlin are stashing their money in recent years. I lived there as a kid, my nan still does, the island has changed beyond recognition. The locals call one of the largest cities Limassolgrad now, due to the influx of dirty money from Russia. London is famously the other destination, but that’ll change soon.

Corn Pop
Reply to  Dee
2 years ago

Good so Londonstan will be returning all these assets to Russia & elsewhere from where the money was stolen . Great news!

Last edited 2 years ago by Corn Pop

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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