Ukrainian tennis star blasts Russian and Belarusian players for their ‘silence’

·3 min read

Ukrainian tennis player Lesia Tsurenko has used her Wimbledon press conference to highlight how most Russian and Belarusian players have been “silent” on the issue of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of her home country.

Tsurenko, 33, wore a yellow and blue ribbon for her doubles match on  Wednesday against compatriot Anhelina Kalinina, which was well-attended with both players warmly applauded on the grass.

Speaking after winning the match, the world number 101, who is from missile-hit Mykolaiv in south Ukraine, also spoke about her family fleeing from Georgia amid the civil war when she was a young child.

Tsurenko said she supported the decision by tennis governing bodies the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) to ban Russian and Belarusian players from the Championships this year.

Speaking about the ban, she said: “It’s just a good step to show that that’s what we all have to do.

“Also, I am Ukrainian. There is no other opinion in my head.

“I would have been the first one to say that, no, you should not ban them, but I have heard only from one Belarusian player and from one Russian player who talked to me personally and told me: ‘I’m against the war’.

“I did not hear anything from any other player.

“So for me, the silence means … I mean, it’s not good.”

She added: “The horrible things that are going on in Ukraine in the last week, (a) terrorist act, a lot of civilians dead.

“And especially it’s very painful for me to see that Russian propaganda is saying that, for example, that shopping mall in Kremenchuk was not working.”

At least 20 people were killed by the missile strikes in Kremenchuk on Monday, according to Ukrainian officials.

Tsurenko added that the Ukraine invasion is the second time her family has been affected by war after they fled from Georgia in the early 1990s when she was four years old.

As a newly-independent country after the dissolution of the USSR, Georgia suffered a war between people in the South Ossetia province in the east, and those in north-western Abkhazia who were supported by Russia.

Russia Ukraine War
Firefighters work at the site of fire after Russian shelling in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, where Lesia Tsurenko is from (George Ivanchenko/AP/PA)

Tsurenko said: “In 1993, on New Year night from 1992 to 1993, we escaped from Georgia because there was a war there.

“This war was made by Russia, so for me is the second time when my family is affected by Russian government, by the actions of Russian government.

“We escaped when I was four years old.

“So it should stop.

“It’s 28 years for me personally since the first time that it affected my family, so somehow it should stop.”

Tsurenko said that “it means a lot” when people donate even a small amount of money to charities helping the Ukrainian cause.

She said: “In the city, in the main city of my region, Mykolaiv region, they don’t have water – for a few months already.

“So if you think that $10 is nothing – it’s 10 bottles of water for these people.”

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