Severiukhin posted a video message on the Russian Automobile Federation’s Telegram channel in which he apologised, adding: “I depicted a gesture that many perceived as a Nazi greeting. But that’s not true – I have never supported Nazism and consider it one of the most terrible crimes against humanity.
“I know it’s my fault, I know I’m stupid, and I’m ready to be punished. But please understand that I did not support Nazism or fascism with this gesture.”
The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) announced earlier it had launched “an immediate investigation into the unacceptable conduct of Mr Artem Severiukhin”.
News of Severiukhin’s imminent sacking emerged on the same day Italian tax police seized residential property on Sardinia belonging to Russian Formula 1 driver Nikita Mazepin and his oligarch father Dmitry as part of the latest sanctions imposed by the European Union on Moscow.
Mazepin, who drove for Hass until March 5, owns the 105 million euro (£87.7m) complex at Portisco in the province of Olbia via a foreign company held by him and his father, police said.
Severiukhin’s salute also occurred just over a month after compatriot Ivan Kuliak wore a symbol in support of Russia’s invasion during the medal ceremony at a gymnastics World Cup event in Doha.
After winning bronze in the parallel bars final, Kuliak taped the letter ‘Z’ to the front of his outfit before standing next to Illia Kovtun of Ukraine, the gold medallist, for the national anthems.
The act drew condemnation from the International Gymnastics Federation, which said it would look into Kuliak’s “shocking behaviour”.
Kuliak was unrepentant, telling Russia Today: “If there was a second chance and I had a choice whether to go out with the letter ‘Z’ on my chest or not, I would do the same.
“I saw it on our military and looked at what this symbol means. It turned out to be ‘for victory’ and ‘for peace’. I just wanted to show my position.”