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Athletes come out to protect Ukraine, join war against Russia

While some Ukrainian athletes have come out on to streets with weapons to resist Russian forces, some others, like tennis ace Svitolina, have taken symbolic stances.

Chess Ukraine Grandmaster Oleksandr Sulypa

Chess Grandmaster and Captain of the Ukrainian Team Oleksandr Sulypa posted this photo with the caption, "I am defending my land from enemies and "peacekeepers". The truth will win!"


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 1 March 2022 7:04 AM GMT

The Russian invasion in Ukraine has been wreaking havoc globally and the Ukrainian sports fraternity has united to join the war against Russia.

Chess Grandmaster and Captain of the Ukrainian Team Oleksandr Sulypa posted a photo, all armed up, with the caption, "I am defending my land from enemies and "peacekeepers". The truth will win!" from Lviv, close to the Polish border. The invasion has left the whole of Ukraine devastated and has greatly affected the safety of the sporting community as well.

Chess players of Ukraine are also in a great state of jeopardy, along with other athletes present in the country, with constant air raids and bombings sending chills down the spine of the nation.

Speaking to Chess24, the Grandmaster said, "There is a difficult situation — so many rockets fell on cities today that it is difficult to count. I ask all streamers and journalists to support us. I appeal to all Russian chess players — do not support criminal orders. We have roadblocks everywhere, the city is patrolled by the defence of the city. I take an active part."

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Olympic gold medalist boxer Oleksandr Usyk has also joined the fight against Russia and has urged President Vladimir Putin to halt his advance into Ukraine.

A southpaw, Oleksandr won gold at the 2012 London Olympics. Right after Putin declared war on Ukraine, many famed boxers from the country have come together to fight for the sovereignty of Ukraine against the Russian forces.

Posting a video from his Instagram handle, the heavyweight boxer insisted, "If we consider ourselves as brother, Orthodox ones, do not send your children to our country, do not fight with us," Usyk said. "Also, I'm addressing this to the president, Vladimir Putin. You can stop this war. Please just sit down and negotiate it with us without claims."

Additionally, former world heavyweight champion boxer Wladimir Klitschko said that "I am Ukrainian, and I am a fighter" when asked about whether he would join the resistance against Russia's military invasion of his country.

In an interview conducted at Kyiv's town hall, Klitschko revealed that he was prepared to fight for Ukraine if needed. Amid mounting tensions, Ukraine announced that a delegation would meet with Russian officials for talks.

But the Kremlin's ultimate aims in Ukraine - and what steps might be enough to satisfy Russian president Vladimir Putin and Moscow - remained unclear.

Klitschko also described the "weird" experience of living in his city as bombs rained down after five days of war since Putin's Russia invaded Ukraine last Thursday, and emphasised that "every hour counts" in finding a resolution.

Tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky, without any prior military experience, also signed up to defend his country against the Russians.

Svitolina against playing Russians

Elina Svitolina (Source: AP)

Top-seeded Elina Svitolina, a 27-year-old professional tennis player from Ukraine, says she will withdraw from the Monterrey Open rather than face a Russian opponent at the Mexican tournament unless tennis's governing bodies follow the International Olympic Committee's lead and insist that players from Russia and Belarus are only identified as "neutral athletes."

Svitolina wrote Monday on Twitter that she did not want to play her opening-round contest against Anastasia Potapova "nor any other match against Russian or Belarussian tennis players until" the WTA women's tour, ATP men's tour and International Tennis Federation "follow the recommendations of the IOC" and bar those countries' competitors from using any national symbols, colours, flags or anthems.

The Russian military assault on Ukraine was on its fifth day. "I do not blame any of the Russian athletes," Svitolina wrote. "They are not responsible for the invasion of our motherland." Svitolina is a two-time Grand Slam semifinalist with 16 career tour-level singles titles who has been ranked as high as No. 3 and is currently No. 15.

Another tennis player from Ukraine, 32-year-old Lesia Tsurenko, wrote on Twitter that she and others "would like to express our great surprise and dissatisfaction with the lack of any response to the situation with our Motherland." Tsurenko, a quarterfinalist at the 2018 U.S. Open who's been ranked as high as No. 23 and is No. 127 this week, called on the WTA to immediately condemn the Russian government.

The ITF said it has cancelled its events on Russian soil "indefinitely," and no events would be scheduled in Belarus this year. It also postponed an event scheduled for Ukraine in April, citing "heightened security concerns." "This is a fast-evolving situation. We are constantly monitoring events and remain in active discussion with the ITF tennis family, the ITF Board and security experts to decide and align around our next course of action.

We stand united with the population of Ukraine," the ITF said in a statement issued Monday. "Right now, our priority remains the safety of all those participating in our events. We will of course be providing more information as soon as possible." The WTA and ATP did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

(With inputs from PTI)

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