Kira Rudik And Enes Kanter Freedom: The Sporting World Must Isolate Russia
This year children in Ukraine wait for holiday, because in the morning Saint Nicholas brings gifts under the pillow. Not this time.
At night, Kyiv woke up to an air-raid siren. The power disappeared, and water and heating too. Are Ukrainians afraid of the dark? No. We become angrier, and more determined, grit our teeth and do our work further, each on their own front, to bring victory closer.
But there are those for whom it is really difficult: families with small children, elderly people, and those who have chronic diseases or need special care.
How do you study without light and communication? How do you train when the gym is without windows and heating, and the stadium was destroyed by shelling?
Most likely, we will lose a whole generation of athletes because even those children and teenagers who have prospects, a knack for sports, and would work for achievements, today survive under Russian missiles, drones and artillery.
Until now, we have often heard that sport is out of politics. This is a lie. If only because since February 24, 2022, more than 180 Ukrainian athletes have died in the full-scale war. Now a separate virtual pantheon of “Sports Angels” has been created.
Among them is 11-year-old gymnast Katya Dyachenko. She already had victories in youth tournaments and dreamed of the Olympic Games, but her house in Mariupol was bombed by Russia on March 10.
Boxer and military serviceman Serhiy Sova, whose hand with a blue-yellow bracelet after exhumation became a symbol of Russian executions in Izyum, Kharkiv region.
Dmytro Yevdochenko, a young football player of Kyiv Atlet. He and his parents were evacuating through a corridor in the Kyiv region when their car was shot by the Russians. All these lives were taken away by Putin.
Sport cannot be out of politics or out of war. There will be no new Andriy Shevchenkos in Ukraine because the football stadiums have been destroyed.
There will be no new Klitschko brothers, because the boxers joined the army to defend the country, sometimes at the cost of life and health. There will be no Oleh Lisohors, because there is nowhere to swim.
Recently, FIFA refused to let President Zelenskyy broadcast his speech at the final of the World Cup. He wanted to tell the world what is happening in Ukraine and call for help to stop Russian aggression.
Why was it not allowed? Because football is out of politics. But how can you be out of politics when bombs are aimed at you, when your life is destroyed, and all your dreams, hopes, and aspirations are smashed by a piece of metal from the sky? FIFA did not respond to this question.
That’s why we answer. Russia should be isolated by the civilized world at all levels. And in sports too.
This is important for the future of the whole world — to prevent another war.
First of all, Putin’s regime did not arise out of nowhere and it was not Putin who created Russia as an imperial aggressor, but Russia created its own Putin.
So how can the anthem of a country whose troops kill, rob, rape, and maim other people sound in stadiums? Sanctions against athletes of the Russian Federation preventing them from competing are needed.
To everyone who will now say: but the athletes are not to blame for what the Kremlin is doing, we will answer: let them perform under the flags of other countries.
Secondly, this full-scale war in the heart of Europe is a world precedent. Now other Putins are watching the hostilities and the reaction of the world. And if the world does not punish this tyrant harshly enough, others will perceive this signal as weakness, and therefore start their own wars.
We call on all sports organisations to unite with Ukraine and oppose the aggressor and his representatives at all levels.
Now with us are world politicians, volunteers, and public figures. Athletes should be too.
Those who are aware of the difference between good and evil, who have principles and values.
Darkness and bombs cannot defeat justice and fair competition. The dreams of Ukrainian athletes cannot be destroyed.
Kira Rudik is a Ukrainian MP and leader of Golos party. Enes Kanter Freedom is a professional basketball player and human rights activist.