Former Olympic and world figure skating champion Aljona Savchenko has told Eurosport that she was left “speechless” when she saw figure skaters at a pro-war rally in Moscow recently.
Inside the Games reported that the figure skaters - understood to be Nikita Katsalapov, Victoria Sinitsina, Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov - were photographed standing on stage during a pro-war rally organised last week by Vladimir Putin to drum up support for his invasion of Ukraine.
Savchenko, who was born in Ukraine but represented Germany, told Eurosport: “I was speechless when I saw that.
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I could hardly believe my eyes.
“It is very painful what is happening between Ukraine and Russia. Children and people are dying, countries are being destroyed - it's a catastrophe.
“And these athletes are celebrating it and supporting this gala. It's inhumane. However, I don't know if they went there voluntarily or not. There are rumours that they had to or were forced to. Unfortunately, I can't assess it..”
Savchenko went on to say that her family are still trapped in Mariupol, a region in Ukraine, adding that they are running out of food. She called the situation in the country a “humanitarian disaster.”
“Unfortunately, there was bad news on Monday. My family comes from the region around Mariupol. A relative was injured there. He is only 17 years old. The other family members are in a cellar, but they can't get out.
“There is no food there either. If it continues like this for a few more days, they will die due to lack of food. It is a humanitarian disaster. My brothers are okay, if you can say that at all in the current situation. However, they are not allowed to go out at all for two days.”
The former Germany coach was asked whether she was in regular contact with anyone in Russia but she said she has had to delete a lot of people from her phone, adding that many have told her that they are against the war but are afraid to speak out.
“To be honest, I have deleted many from my contact list,” Savchenko said. “I can't understand why some are in favour of this war.
“Others are against the war but don't speak out about it. There are many people who write me negative messages. But there are also many who are against the war. However, they write to me that they cannot do anything against it. If they protest against it, they would pay for it with heavy prison sentences or even their lives.
“They are simply all very afraid, so even those who are against it will not do anything. They themselves don't know how to react properly.
“On the other hand, I think that if you have your own opinion, you should speak out. But of course I'm not on the ground either, so I can't judge what the situation is like in Russia. I know that even using the word 'war' on social media is punished severely there. But from my point of view, it will be difficult for people there to look each other in the eye again.”
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