Ukrainian Svitolina refuses to compete against Russian or Belarusian tennis players

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Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina has said she will not play her round of 16 match against Russia’s Anastasia Potapova at the Monterrey Open unless tennis governing bodies follow the recommendations of the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC executive said on Friday that the Russian and Belarusian national flags should not be displayed at international sporting events following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Monday, the IOC Executive Board went further and recommended that sports federations ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from participating in events, but Svitolina aired her feelings ahead of the latest publication.

“We Ukrainian players have asked the ATP, WTA and ITF to follow the IOC’s recommendations to accept Russian or Belarus nationals only as neutral athletes, without displaying any symbols, colors , flags or national anthems,” Svitolina said.

“As a result, I want to announce that I will not be playing tomorrow in Monterrey, or any other match against Russian or Belarusian tennis players until our organizations make this necessary decision.”

In a separate but similar statement earlier Monday, Ukrainian tennis players including Marta Kostyuk and Lesia Tsurenko called on the WTA to withdraw all tournaments from Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

Athletes from Ukraine and other countries have urged international bodies to take action after Russia launched its invasion by land, air and sea last week following a declaration of war by President Vladimir Putin.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” which it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy the military capabilities of its southern neighbor and capture what it sees as dangerous nationalists.

“We Ukrainian tennis players would like to express our great surprise and dissatisfaction at the lack of response to the situation with our homeland,” the statement read.

“It is particularly odd that in past cases of social injustice and sexual harassment, the WTA’s response has been swift, appropriate and bold.

“We demand that the WTA immediately condemn the Russian government, withdraw all tournaments from Russia and demand that the ITF do the same. Stop the war. Stop the Russian aggression. Bring peace to our homes. Be human.”

The WTA did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

On Sunday, the Ukrainian Tennis Federation urged the sport’s governing body, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), to immediately expel Russia and Belarus from the organization and ban Russia from team and individual tournaments.


(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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