Russian tennis stars told to take jail sentence as Ukrainian blasts compatriots

Ukrainian tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky has said he is ‘disappointed’ with Russian stars who refuse to speak out about Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his homeland. Those who criticise the state could risk being arrested due to the country’s strict censorship laws.

At least 47,000 people are believed to have died since Putin ordered his invasion of Ukraine in February. A further 13,000 are estimated to have suffered serious injuries while over 17million people have been displaced. 

Many sports including Formula One and football have sought to remove Russian drivers and teams as they look to make pariahs out of the aggressive state. However, tennis has taken a more lenient stance with Russian players like world No 1 Daniil Medevev allowed to continue competing so long as they do so under a neutral flag. 

This caused problems at Wimbledon with the All England Club unwilling to admit them to the competition. As a result, the ATP decided to remove ranking points from the event resulting in Novak Djokovic falling to world No 7.

The now retired Stakhovsky was speaking at a charity event in Poland arranged by women’s No 1 Iga Swiatek to raise money for young people affected by the war. 

“I’m disappointed to say the least,” he explained. “They are scared for their fate. They don’t want to go to jail but they are okay that the kids and women are dying. 

“I would rather trade and go to jail for a couple of weeks or even a month if I can save a life by doing that.”

He suggested that the Russian stars actively tried to avoid him when he attended the French Open earlier this year. 

He added: “I met some of the Russian players in Paris. I’m not going to name names during Roland Garros and basically, all of them just turned around and walked away or turned their heads when they saw me.” 

However, he was keen to single out Andrey Rublev and Daria Kataskina for praise. Both professionals have spoken out against the war, Rublev initially made a public anti-war display as soon as it began. The women’s No 12 has released described the war as a ‘nightmare’ in a brave video we’re she condemned the war and also announced she was gay. 

“Rublev may be the only player who came out publicly and said stop the war in the first week, while I have a great admiration for Daria. She is a hero in her own way,” Stakhovsky explained.

“If there were more Russians like this the war would never have started.”

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