Former world boxing heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has lauded the sports community for coming together to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes following the invasion of his country Ukraine last week.
Since the beginning of what Russian President Vladimir Putin has called “a special military operation”, Russian and Belarusian teams and athletes have been frozen out of international events by many sporting bodies.
Belarus has been a key staging area for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I’m proud of the world’s unity and seeing sporting communities standing together – the International Olympic Committee, boxing federations, UEFA, FIFA, Formula One,” Wladimir Klitschko told Sky Sports.
“Ban Russian teams from participating. I have nothing against the athletes but they are presenting the regime and in some way the connection with this war,” Klitschko said.
“It’s never enough until the war is going to be stopped but it’s important to show the world is not okay with this war, that the sporting world is not okay with it.”
Klitschko and his brother Vitali, also a former world heavyweight champion and now the mayor of Kyiv, have both taken up arms against invading Russian forces.
“It’s a very challenging time in the lives of Ukrainians. I was never thinking I’m going to face the war,” Wladimir Klitschko said.
“You see and hear the explosions, the rockets, the destroyed vehicles, buildings – it’s absolutely terrifying what the war can do. I’m proud of the Ukrainian nation. Everyone stands for each other. I have never been as proud to be Ukrainian as now.”
Ukraine’s WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO champion Oleksandr Usyk is also fighting the battle for the future of his nation, having joined the territorial defence battalion in Kyiv.
Former tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky has also enlisted in Ukraine’s reserve army.
Russia calls ban on its athletes “monstrous”
Russia on Thursday condemned as a “disgrace” a last-minute decision to ban its athletes from the Paralympic Games in Beijing to punish it for its actions in Ukraine.
“The situation is monstrous, of course. This is a disgrace for the International Paralympic Committee,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.
“We strongly condemn the International Paralympic Committee for this decision.”
The IPC said earlier that Russian and Belarusian athletes would be barred from the Games which open on Friday.
Bryan brothers to raise funds for Svitolina’s Ukraine aid
Bob and Mike Bryan, the most successful men’s doubles team in tennis, said on Thursday they will raise funds at this month’s Indian Wells tournament to support Elina Svitolina’s drive to provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees.
Former world number three Svitolina is trying to unite the tennis world behind her country following Russia’s invasion and said she would donate her prize money from the ongoing Monterrey Open in Mexico to the Ukrainian army.
The Bryan twins said they will launch a ‘Racquets for Refugees’ auction, which will feature tennis racquets autographed and donated by current and former tennis players, during the ATP and WTA event at Indian Wells, California.
“We are all heartbroken to see the tragedy unfold in Ukraine,” Bob Bryan said in a statement. “Children should be on playgrounds and tennis courts not in bomb shelters and trains fleeing their homes.
“The tennis world is a close-knit family, and I am confident that when we kick off the auction on March 8 we will have an amazing level of support from players.”
The Bryans captured a professional era record 119 titles together, including 16 Grand Slams, 39 ATP Masters 1000s and the ATP Finals title four times. The Californian pair were the top-ranked doubles team in the world for 438 weeks.
The main draw of the Indian Wells tournament begins with the women’s matches on March 9 and ATP action on March 10, and wraps up on March 20.
Soccer great Shevchenko calls for more aid for Ukraine
Ex-Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko called on Thursday for more aid and other measures in support of victims of the Russian invasion of his homeland.
Widely regarded as his country’s greatest ever player, Shevchenko said global soccer authorities had done the right thing in banning Russia from international competitions, though the sport was currently the last thing on his mind.
“We have refugees, we need humanitarian aid. We need medical support, food support…,” Shevchenko, who won 111 caps for Ukraine during a stellar carrier that included stints at some of the world’s top clubs, told Sky Sports.
“Football doesn’t exist for me any more. I don’t think about it. It’s not the time for that… All my concentration, when I wake up, I think about how I can help my country, what I can do.”
World soccer body FIFA and its European counterpart UEFA have banned teams from Russia and also Belarus, which has been a staging zone for the invasion.
Since Russia invaded, more than 2,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and hundreds of structures including homes, hospitals, kindergartens and transport facilities have been destroyed, Ukraine’s emergency service said on Wednesday.
The United Nations has estimated that more than 870,000 people have fled from Ukraine.
Shevchenko, who is currently based in London, said he had contemplated going home.
“I talk to my parents, I talk to my mother and say I want to go back, but my feeling is here now.”
Belarusian tennis player Azarenka devastated by Ukraine violence
Former world tennis number one Victoria Azarenka of Belarus has said she is devastated by the suffering of people amid violence in Ukraine after Russia invaded last week.
The invasion has killed more than 2,000 Ukrainian civilians and destroyed hundreds of structures including homes, hospitals, kindergartens and transport facilities, Ukraine’s emergency service said on Wednesday.
“I’m devastated by the actions that have taken place over the last several days against and in Ukraine,” Azarenka said on Twitter.
“It’s heartbreaking to see how many innocent people have been affected and continue to be affected by such violence.”
Belarus is a close ally of Russia and has been a key staging area for Russian forces mounting the invasion, which Russia calls a “special operation”.
“Since my early childhood, I have always seen and experienced Ukrainian and Belarusian people, as well as both nations, friendly and supportive of one another,” the 32-year-old said.
“It is hard to witness the violent separation that is currently taking place instead of supporting and finding compassion for each other.”
Since the start of the invasion, Russian and Belarusian teams and athletes have found themselves frozen out from international competitions across sports.
Tennis authorities this week banned them from competing under the name and flag of their countries.
Two-times Grand Slam champion Azarenka said that she wished for peace.
“My heart is with everyone directly and indirectly impacted by this war that is causing such pain and suffering for so many,” Azarenka said.
“I hope and wish for peace and an end to the war.”
The United Nations has estimated that more than 870,000 people have fled from Ukraine since the invasion was launched a week ago in what looks set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century and displace millions.
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