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Athletes speak out following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Elina Svitolina called for unity on Twitter. (AELTC - Pool/Getty Images)

As Russian troops continue to march into Ukraine, some athletes have begun to speak out in support of the sovereign nation, which has since declared marshal law. Included amongst them are Ukrainian tennis players Elina Svitolina, Dayana Yastremska and Marta Kostyuk.

Svitolina took to Twitter, tweeting out in Ukrainian that she is “proud to be Ukrainian.”

“Let us unite in this extremely difficult time for the sake of peace and the future of our state,” she wrote. “Glory to Ukraine.”

She later tweeted out the words “I can’t…” with crying and heartbroken emojis.

Yastremska revealed in an Instagram post that there is “so much pain and fear,” but that she is staying in her hometown of Odessa with family. Home to a naval base, Odessa is a port city in the Ukraine that was one of the cities bombed by Russian soldiers.

“I haven’t left home to do my favorite job,” Yastremska continued. “There’s a war in Ukraine! I love you all and I genuinely believe that peace will be restored soon! Stay safe!”

Kostyuk shared a message on her Instagram stories declaring Ukraine’s sovereignty.

“Ukraine is not a ‘part of Russia,’” it reads. “It wasn’t and it never will be.”

Other tennis players and athletes have taken to social media to post messages of support. Former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka tweeted out that she “can’t believe what I’m seeing.”

“I hope you know we’re thinking of you and praying for you,” she said.

Arella Guirantes, a basketball player for the Los Angeles Sparks who has also spent time playing with BC Budivelnyk in Kyiv, Ukraine, said that her “heart is so heavy right now.”

“I’ve only been there for a couple of months but my experience there in Kyiv was amazing and I hold that city and the people I met there dear to my heart.”

In a statement, the International Paralympics Committee president Andrew Parsons called it “a truly horrible situation.” The Paralympics are set to begin next week in Beijing. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a direct breach of the Olympic Truce, which was adopted on December 2, 2021 and is co-sponsored by Russia. It lasts until March 20.

“We are greatly concerned about out National Paralympic Committee and Para athletes from Ukraine,” he said. “Our top priority right now is the safety and well-being of the Ukrainian delegation, with whom we are in regular dialogue. Earlier today I spoke with Valeriy Sushkevych, the President of the Ukrainian Paralympic Committee, who informed me that his Para athletes wish to compete in Beijing, however getting the team to Beijing is going to be a mammoth challenge.

“One key aspect of the Truce is ensuring the safe passage, access and participation of athletes, officials, and all accredited persons taking part in the Games. We need to find a solution for this as soon as possible so that the Ukrainian delegation can travel to and from the Games safely. World leaders must observe their commitment to the Olympic Truce, in particular those Member States who are a co-sponsor of the resolution.”