Invasion of Ukraine: Ukrainian athletes fighting Russians include Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk and the Klitschko brothers | boxing news
A number of Ukrainian athletes, including the Klitschko brothers, have taken up arms to defend their country amid the ongoing Russian invasion.
Sporting sanctions continue to emerge and have already seen FIFA and UEFA suspend Russian national and club teams from all competitions, the Champions League final withdrawn from St Petersburg, the Formula 1 Grand Prix from Russia canceled and the International Judo Federation suspended Russian President Vladimir Putin as its honorary president, among others.
Ukrainian world number 15 Elina Svitolina has pulled out of a WTA Tour event as she called on tennis organizations to accept Russian or Belarusian nationals only as neutral athletes.
While players and teams around the world have expressed their support for Ukraine, some of the country’s sports stars have chosen to stay and fight.
Former world heavyweight boxing champions Vitali, the mayor of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, and Wladimir Klitschko have both announced they are ready to take up arms to defend their country against invasion.
Wladimir, who enlisted in Ukraine’s reserve army earlier this month as the nation braced for an attack, insisted that “every hour counts”.
“I am Ukrainian and I am a fighter,” Wladimir Klitschko said on Monday.
“Our strongest strength is the will and the desire to live in a free country, and we have chosen the direction in which we want to go.
“We are a European country and we want to make sure that our values will be properly implemented in our society, and that no one else will decide for us how we should live.
“Kiev hasn’t been bombed since 1941, when the Nazis bombed and attacked Kiev. It’s so weird to hear explosions in the city day after day and shootings, and to see all the pictures all over the country where people are suffering.
“And in Kyiv, this is a catastrophic humanitarian event, and that’s why every hour counts.”
Two-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko was pictured armed and in military overalls after joining the Belgorod-Dnestrovsky Territorial Defence.
Lomachenko was eyeing a matchup with Australian George Kambosos for the undisputed lightweight championship later this year.
The 34-year-old returned to Ukraine to be with his family after the invasion, flying to Bucharest before crossing into Romania after his initial flight to the country from Greece was delayed due to the shutdown air traffic.
WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk also joined the fight and was pictured armed after enlisting in Kyiv’s Territorial Defence.
Uysk is set to face Anthony Joshua in a rematch in May or June after stripping the Briton of his belts by unanimous decision at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on September 25.
The 35-year-old recently addressed Russian President Putin urging him to stop the war and negotiate with Ukraine.
“Hello everyone. My name is Oleksandr Usyk. I would like to speak to the Russian people,” he said. “If we consider ourselves brothers, Orthodox. Do not let your children go to our country, do not fight with us. Also, I am addressing President Vladimir Putin. You can stop this war. Please please sit down and negotiate it with us without complaints.
“Our children, our wives, our grannies are hiding in basements. We are here in our own country, we can’t help it – we are defending. Stop it! Stop this war.”
Recently retired Ukrainian tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky has explained that he intends to return to Kyiv to fight once he moves his wife and children to a safe place.
The 36-year-old, who has won four ATP Tour titles in his career, stressed the importance of support across Europe.
“I joined the reserves last week,” he said. “I don’t have military experience but I have experience with a firearm in private. My father and brother are surgeons, they are stressed, but I talk to them often – they sleep in the basement .
“It makes all the difference for our armed forces that they are not alone at least in a media environment, but let’s be real here, it’s been eight years of war with Russia, where was all that for eight years?
“None of us believed this could happen, and yet it happened.
“None of the European or world leaders are ready to help, ready to fight in Ukraine maybe for a better Europe in the future, because once Ukraine is lost, we will resist.
“But let’s be real, Russia is a 140m [population] country that stretches from Europe to Alaska, it’s going to be very hard to resist that much.”
Current Bellator welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov has confirmed in an Instagram video that he plans to defend his country after taking his family to a safe zone.
Amosov, who is unbeaten at 26-0 in his professional career, is due to face Britain’s Michael Page at Bellator London on May 13.
“Probably, many will think that I ran away or was in hiding or something, but that’s not the case,” Amosov said in a video. “I took my family to the safe zone. Now I have come back and I will defend this country as best I can, with what I can. I love this country, ours. Russia came to us and started a war here, many people are dying – innocent people, women and children.
“We are in a real war. I cannot understand these people who do not believe that Russian troops entered Ukraine. I see it with my own eyes, I hear it. Terrible things are happening here.”
Former Arsenal defender Oleh Luzhnyi, the first Ukrainian to win the Premier League, said he was taking a break from his coaching career to stay and fight.
Luzhnyi’s hometown of Lviv in western Ukraine was initially seen as the safe space for national refugees fleeing Kyiv, as the US embassy had previously been based there since moving its operations to Poland. in light of more frequent air raid sirens.
“The situation is horrible,” Luzhnyi told Sky Sports via WhatsApp message. “I want to come and coach in the UK, but above all I will stand firm and fight for my people, for my country and for democracy.”
“We all hope this ends soon as innocent lives are lost and families are torn apart,” he said.
“A country invaded and destroyed is all for what? We must unite and end this criminal war.”