From football to boxing to tennis to chess, sportspersons from Ukraine and beyond have raised their voice in protest against Russian military operations in East European country. Some have been scathing in their attack on Russian president Vladimir Putin,
who ordered his troops into Ukraine on Thursday, while others have called on the world to stand beside the Ukrainian people. Former chess czar Garry Kasparov, himself a Russian, gave out a strong statement against Putin.
“Every dollar in trade with Russia since he invaded Ukraine in 2014, every Euro of corrupt deals with his cronies, helped Putin build the war machine he is using to slaughter civilians in Europe today,” Kasparov, who lives in Croatia currently, tweeted.
The 58-year-old Kasparov, a staunch critic of Putin who left Russia in 2014 citing fear of persecution, urged the world to help Ukraine. “Now you must help Ukraine fight against the monster you helped create,” he said.
Manchester City defender Oleksandr Zinchenko, who was born in Radomyshl, a town less than 100km from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, also let out his anger against Putin.
In an Instagram post which was deleted later, Zinchenko who has made 48 international appearances for Ukraine, posted a picture of Putin with the caption: “I hope you die the most painful suffering death, creature.”
Like Zinchenko, Andriy Shevchenko too took to social media to speak up. Shevchenko, the greatest footballer to rise from Ukraine, tweeted: “Ukraine is my motherland! I have always been proud of my people and my country!”
Hours before Russia formally attacked Ukraine, Roman Yaremchuk, after scoring in Benfica’s 2-2 draw with Ajax in a Champions League match on Wednesday, had removed his jersey to display his nation’s coat of arms, the trident, in solidarity with his homeland.
One of the most celebrated sportspersons in Ukraine is former world champion in boxing Wladimir Klitschko. He sent out a message of solidarity in his nation’s time of crisis.
“Be sure: Ukraine is strong!… Its WILL to exist is infinite. Glory to Ukraine!” tweeted the 45-year-old Klitschko.
Earlier this month, Klitschko signed up as a reserve in Ukraine’s territorial forces. His younger brother Vitali Klitschko, also a former world champion, is the mayor of Kyiv.
Ukrainian tennis star Elina (Svitolina) Monfils tweeted a crying emoji after the news of the Russian invasion became public. A few hours earlier, she had tweeted: “I am proud to be Ukrainian. Let us unite in this extremely difficult time for the sake of peace and the future of our state. Glory to Ukraine.”
Four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel has said he will not race in the Russian Grand Prix in September as a mark of protest. “I woke up to this morning’s news, shocked. I think it’s horrible to see what is happening. Obviously if you look at the calendar we have a race scheduled in Russia (on September 25). My own opinion is I should not go, I will not go. I think it’s wrong to race in the country.”
(Written with agency inputs)