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Russia checkmated by sports sanctions but athletes win hearts

Even though Russia faces serious sanctions from sports bodies, Russian athletes plead for peace and ask for the war against Ukraine to be ended.

Andrey Rublev signs the camera with a No to War message while Russian-born Daria Saville will wear Ukrainian colours in solidarity

Andrey Rublev signs the camera with a 'No to War' message while Russian-born Daria Saville will wear Ukrainian colours in solidarity


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 1 March 2022 2:51 PM GMT

The world is coming down heavily on Russia ever since the country's President Vladimir Putin declared war on neighbouring Ukraine. With hapless civilians being the biggest casualties, the sports world is also punishing Russia for Putin's actions.

FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, Badminton World Federation, ITF, FINA and other notable sports governing bodies have stripped Russia off competitions and banned them.

Not just Russia, the invasion of Ukraine is also being supported by Belarus and inevitably, even the latter is now in the eye of the wrath of the world and facing hefty sanctions for their ongoing atrocities.

However, the Russian athletes, who are also caught in the cross-fire of this Putin-led war, have been winning hearts with their anti-war gestures, showcasing how the entanglement of sports with world politics is a nasty affair.

READ | Russia-Ukraine Crisis: India's football friendly against Belarus called off

Several Russian athletes have been vocal about their anti-war, pro-peace stances ever since Russia attacked Ukraine, with tennis players Andrey Rublev, World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, footballer Fedor Smolov, among others, showing their ardent support for Ukraine and pleading Russia to put an end to the war.

On Tuesday, Russian shooter Artem Chernousov, who won the 10m air pistol bronze medal at the ISSF World Cup, was the first to congratulate gold medallist Saurabh Chaudhary. His country's flag was prominently absent from the podium and scoreboards, as sports bodies blanked out Russia even though their athletes were allowed to compete.

Earlier in the day, this was what Chernousov posted on his Instagram handle:

1. Andrey Rublev

Russian tennis player Andrey Rublev

En route to lifting the title at the Dubai Tennis Championships, World No. 6 Russian tennis player Andrey Rublev courageously signed the camera with a "No war please" message after his semi-final victory over Hubert Hurkacz.

Immediately garnering a lot of cheers for this bold step that Rublev took by going against his country's actions, Rublev maintains a pro-peace attitude. In fact, the Russian had paired with Ukrainian tennis player Denys Molchanov to win the doubles tournament at the Open 13 event in Marseille in February, as well.

2. Daniil Medvedev

Daniil Medvedev

The newly crowned World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev also expressed his peace-loving views during the Mexico Open last week.

"By being a tennis player, I want to promote peace all over the world. We play in so many different countries; I've been in so many countries as a junior and as a pro. It's just not easy to hear all this news. ... I'm all for peace," he said, after being visibly upset by the news about Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Medvedev also took to his social media handles after becoming the World No. 1 to encourage kids to keep dreaming always and pleaded for peace between the countries.

3. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkov

The No. 1 female tennis player from Russia, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkov also took to her social media to ask Russia to put an end to the war with Ukraine.

"I've been playing tennis since I was a kid, I have represented Russia all my life, this is my home and my country - but now I am in complete fear, as are my friends and family," the World No 14 wrote in a post on her Twitter page.

Disavowing 'personal ambitions or political motives' as being reason enough to wage violence, Anastasia, a Tokyo Olympic gold medallist urged Russia to end the war and sought peace.

4. Anastasia Potapova

Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina's first-round opponent at the Monterrey Open, Anastasia Potapova released a statement after Svitolina refused to play against any Russian or Belarusian opponent until the WTA probed into the matter.

According to Potapova, who is also against the war, she feels that athletes like her from Russia are simply 'hostages of the current situation' and it is unfortunate as she "dreamed of playing tennis without choosing a match, a country or a partner in the game" and even she etched out her anti-war, peace-loving stance clearly in the statement.

5. Daria Saville

Yet another tennis star, Daria Saville who was born in Moscow and represented Russia before becoming an Australian citizen, has said she plans to wear yellow and blue at the upcoming tournament in Indian Wells to show her support for Ukraine.

6. Fyodor Smolov

Fyodor Smolov

Fyodor Smolov became the first Russian international footballer to express his opposition to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia posting on Instagram: "No to war."

The 32-year-old Smolov has played for Russia on 45 occasions, scoring 16 goals, and has been playing for Dynamo since the beginning of the year, having returned there from city rivals Lokomotiv.

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