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Russia-Ukraine Conflict: Athletes unite in support of Ukraine as Putin declares war

Horrifying scenes are unfolding in Ukraine after Russia's Vladimir Putin ordered 'special military action' and declared war on Ukraine. Athletes reach out with support and prayers.

Ukrain Russia Conflict Sports Roman Yaremchuk
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Explosions in Kyiv, Ukraine (left, Source: Twitter) and Ukrainian footballer, Roman Yaremchuk, unleashes emblem in support in a match

By

The Bridge Desk

Updated: 24 Feb 2022 12:17 PM GMT

After a long period of brewing tension between Russia and Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a televised address ordered a 'special military operation' in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region today.

In his announcement, Putin said the military operation's objective was to defend those people who had been subjected for eight years to "genocide by the Kyiv regime". In fact, the Russian President also asked Ukrainian soldiers who are facing off Russian-backed rebels to lay down weapons and return to their homes.

Soon after Putin made this announcement, several Ukrainian cities are currently under attack with bombings taking place and many civilian lives already lost, with ghastly footages surfacing from the attacks in Kyiv, Kharkiv and other regions.

Ukraine is home to several famed athletes like Elina Svitolina, Dayana Yastremska, Roman Yaremchuk, Oleksandr Usyk, Olha Kharlan, among others who have brought glory to the country through their athletic achievements.

A former world champion boxer and one of Ukraine's most celebrated sportspersons, Wladimir Klitschko is confident that his country will remain strong amid the military escalation with Russia that has caused global turmoil.

Wladimir Klitschko (Source: AP)

The 45-year-old great, a former Olympic gold-medallist and someone who held the world heavyweight championship twice in the professional circuit took to Twitter to send out a message of solidarity for his compatriots as Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the launch of a military operation in eastern Ukraine.

"Be sure: Ukraine is strong! It has a strong capital #Kyiv, strong cities, villages and a strong solid and united people who value above all their independence, sovereignty and peace in Europe. Its WILL to exist is infinite. Glory to Ukraine!" tweeted the great, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2021.

Earlier this month, he signed up as a reserve in Ukraine's territorial forces. "Democracy and freedom have no price...Ukraine wants peace, freedom, and sovereignty," he had stated at that time. "I signed up as a reserve for the territorial forces, for defending the city of Kyiv. Because of everything that is currently going on around Ukraine. The aggression from the Russian side."

His younger brother Vitali Klitschko, also a former world champion, is the mayor of Kyiv. The country is considered a powerhouse in both amateur and professional boxing. Among the active boxers, Vasiliy Lomachenko is a superstar with two Olympic gold medals besides being a former world champion in three weight categories in the professional circuit.

Even more, scathing in his assessment of the conflict was chess great Garry Kasparov, who is now a politician and a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir 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 tweeted after the launch of the military operation by Russia.

The 58-year-old Kasparov left Russia in 2014 citing fear of persecution and currently lives in Croatia. Kasparov held the world number one ranking from 1984 until his retirement in 2005, a record 255 months overall.

"Now you must help Ukraine fight against the monster you helped create," he said. "There's no going back in time, but I hope those who ignored, downplayed, and appeased Putin for so long feel some shame today. Enough at least to do everything possible to stop him now."

At an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appealed to Putin to "stop your troops from attacking Ukraine." While this session was in progress the Russian leader announced the launch of his country's military operation.

Meanwhile, several athletes have taken to Twitter to send their prayers and support to Ukraine as it burns currently:

1. Sharad Kumar - Paralympic bronze medallist

2. Rennae Stubbs - Tennis player

3. Elina Svitolina-Monfils - Tennis player

4. Andriy Yarmolenko - Football player

5. Roman Yaremchuk - Football player

(With inputs from PTI)

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