Elina Svitolina urges Russian tennis stars to denounce Ukraine invasion

Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina

Former tennis world number three Elina Svitolina has asked the WTA and ATP to ban Russian and Belarusian players who have failed to denounce the invasion of Ukraine.

She made the request just hours before Wimbledon confirmed Russian and Belarusian stars would be prohibited from playing at this year’s Grand Slam.

But neither the ATP or WTA have enforced a blanket ban at their events. Instead, players have been to compete in a neutral capacity, without displaying their national flag or having their national anthem played.

Svitolina, who was born in Ukraine, revealed she wanted Russian and Belarusian players banned from all ATP and WTA events unless they denounced the invasion, which began in February.

“We noticed that some Russian and Belarusian players at some point vaguely mentioned the war, but never clearly stating that Russia and Belarus started it on the territory of Ukraine,” her statement read.

“The very silence of those who choose to remain that way right now is unbearable as it leads to the continuation of murder in our homeland.

“We demand that the WTA, ATP and ITF make sure that players who represent Russia and Belarus answer the following questions:

“1. Do you support Russia’s and Belarus invasion in Ukraine’s territory and as a result of that the war started by those countries?

“2. Do you support Russia’s and Belarus military activities in Ukraine?

“3. Do you support Putin’s and Lukashenko’s regime?

“If applicable, we demand to exclude and ban any Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in any events.”

Svitolina’s message was also shared by Marta Kostyuk, the current world number 52.

“In times of crisis, silence means agreeing with what is happening,” the statement ended. “There comes a time when silence is betrayal, and that time is now.”

Wimbledon became the first elite tennis event to expressly prohibit Russian and Belarusian stars from competing.

Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev are the notable absentees from the men’s tournament, while their Russian teammates Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Daria Kasatkina and Veronika Kudermetova are now missing the women’s event.

The ban on Belarusian players impacts world number four Aryna Sabalenka, who reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon last year.

Former world number one Viktoria Azarenka, who progressed to the last four at Wimbledon in 2011 and 2012, also misses out.

The decision to prohibit Russian and Belarusian players from Wimbledon has likely upset WTA chief executive Steve Simon, who told BBC Sport in March that he disagreed with an outright ban.

“I feel very, very strongly that again these individual athletes should not be the ones that are being penalised by the decisions of an authoritarian leadership that is obviously doing terrible, reprehensible things,” he said.

“But if that happens, which is again part of the overall strategy of making Russia, and Russian citizens, pay the consequence for the decision their government has made, then it won’t be something that we support.”

The decision from the All England Club has also been criticised by Martina Navratilova and Novak Djokovic.

Wimbledon is scheduled to run from June 27th to July 10th at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in London.

Ashleigh Barty will not be back to defend her women’s title after announcing her retirement last month.

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