Nations are restricting the freedoms of their hockey players by punishing them for playing in Russia, according to Duma Deputy Dmitry Svishchev Sweden’s Robin Press (number 19) continues to play in Russia. © RIA Novosti / Vladimir Fedorenko

Nations which have imposed sanctions on ice hockey players who compete in Russia are guilty of discrimination and are violating the right to freedom of choice, according to Russian State Duma Deputy Dmitry Svishchev.

The ice hockey authorities in several European countries – including the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Sweden – have announced in recent months that any of their players who appear in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) will no longer be considered for national team selection.

The restrictions have been criticized by Russian politician Svishchev, who is chairman of the Duma Committee on Physical Culture and Sports.

“In fact, the authorities of Sweden and the Czech Republic are restricting the rights of their own citizens,” Svishchev told TASS on Tuesday.

“Athletes are being forbidden to engage in their professional activities, they are restricting their freedom.

“We already know cases when some countries that are unfriendly to us refuse to call up athletes who compete in Russia to their national teams.

NHL team backs Russians in Euro tour row NHL team backs Russians in Euro tour row

“Everyone calls for sport to be apolitical, but what is happening in reality? In reality, there is total discrimination against their own citizens,” Svishchev added.

“And this discrimination comes from countries whose national championships cannot compete with the KHL.

“They are not able to make their clubs attractive for athletes, but at the same time they forbid players to choose.”

Despite the threat of ostracism from their respective national teams, several foreign players have continued to compete for teams in the KHL.

That includes Swedish defenseman Robin Press, who extended his contract with Severstal Cherepovets before the start of the season.

Elsewhere, Latvian goaltender Janis Kalnins, who plays for Amur Khabarovsk, defended his decision to continue playing in Russia.

“It was the best option for my family and for my life after hockey,” Kalnins explained in July.

“I am a grown man and I am aware of the reaction that people can have and how the media will twist it. We each live our lives and make decisions that are best for ourselves and our family.”

Czech star Lukas Klok, who was at Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk but terminated his contract following the outbreak of the conflict with Ukraine, has revealed he was threatened by people in his homeland for playing in the KHL.

Ice hockey is not the only sport where foreign athletes have faced punishment for continuing to play for teams in Russia.

Polish footballer Maciej Rybus was informed that he would not be considered for selection for his country’s World Cup squad after agreeing a contract with Spartak Moscow.

Norwegian midfielder Mathias Normann was also barred from the national team after opting to stay in Russia and moving from Rostov to Dynamo Moscow. (RT)