Belarusian top tennis player Aryna Sabalenka distances herself from Minsk ruler Alexander Lukashenko. Previously, she had caused a stir at the French Open against a Ukrainian.
Munich/Paris - An end to the Ukraine war is not in sight even in early summer 2023. These days, the blowing up of the Kakhovka dam in the Kherson region is causing a stir. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian counteroffensive, as well as the fighting with Russian troops, continues unabated.
Aryna Sabalenka: Belarusian tennis star distances herself from Alexander Lukashenko
Remarkably, Ukrainian athletes compete in competitions at the same time - in tennis also against Russian or Belarusian athletes. The regime in Minsk, in turn, supports Moscow ruler Vladimir Putin in his war of aggression, which violates international law. Now, for the first time, a Belarusian sports star has distanced himself from Putin's ally Alexander Lukashenko.
At the French Open in Paris, for example, tennis player Aryna Sabalenka spoke out on political issues for the first time after a total of six days after two media boycotts.
Excitement at the French Open in Paris: Ukrainian Jelina Svitolina (below) refuses to shake hands with Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka at the net. © IMAGO/Javier Garcia/Shutterstock
"I don't support the war. That means that I don't support Lukashenko right now," said the world number two in the French capital. Previously, the 25-year-old Sabalenka had caused a stir when she waited for her opponent at the net after the 6: 4 and 6: 4 over the Ukrainian Jelina Svitolina - even if she had previously always declared that she would not shake hands with opponents from Russia and Belarus.
Aryna Sabalenka at the French Open: scandal with Ukrainian Jelina Svitolina
Svitolina, for her part, was booed by parts of the audience for refusing to shake hands. Sabalenka has now rejected a deliberate act or even a possible provocation against the Ukrainian. "It was just an instinct. Just like I always do after all my matches," she said.
To put this into perspective: After the games, Ukrainian professionals refrain from shaking hands with their opponents from Russia and Belarus, which is otherwise common in tennis, and they do not pose for joint photos. The reactions in the audience at the French Open were mixed. She had expected the boos, Svitolina said in Paris: "That was no surprise to me."
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Distancing herself from Alexander Lukashenko: Belarusian tennis star Aryna Sabalenka. © IMAGO/Javier Garcia/Shutterstock
Tennis: Ukrainians refuse to shake hands with Russian and Belarusian players
Another example: At the beginning of March, the Ukrainian tennis player Marta Kostjuk refused to shake hands with her Russian opponent Varvara Gracheva after the final of the WTA tournament in Austin, Texas. Instead, she said into the microphone at the award ceremony: "I want to dedicate this title to Ukraine and all the people who are fighting and dying right now." (dpa/pm)