London (AFP) – Ukrainian international Oleksandr Zinchenko says he has cried constantly since Russia invaded Ukraine and the Manchester City star told the BBC he would have returned like other sports stars have done to fight had it not been for having a family.
The 25-year-old added his compatriots would not “give up” in resisting the invasion and criticised Russian footballers for failing to speak out against the war.
Several past and present Ukrainian sporting luminaries have returned to Ukraine to take up arms, including world heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk and football manager Yuriy Vernydub.
“I’ll be honest, if not for my daughter, my family, I would be there,” he told the BBC.
“I’m just born like that. I know the people from my country, the mentality of them, and all of them, they think exactly the same.
“I’m so proud to be Ukrainian, and I will be forever for the rest of my life. And when you’re watching the people, how they fight for their lives.
“I know the people, the mentality of my people from my country, they prefer to die, and they will die. But they’re not going to give (up).”
Zinchenko and fellow Premier League star Andriy Yarmolenko have with other Ukrainian footballers done their bit to rally opposition in “the world football community” to Russia by releasing a video.
Zinchenko — who played for Russian side Ufa for a season before joining City in 2016 for a reported fee of £1.7 million ($2.2 million) — says he is still reeling from what has taken place.
“At midnight UK time (0000 GMT), my wife woke me up and she was crying,” he said.
“I was in shock. She showed me the videos, the pictures, what’s going on now in Ukraine.
“Maybe the most closest feeling is when someone from your circle is dying. You know, this feeling like you feel so bad inside. But this is even much more worse.
“I’m just crying.”
– ‘Stop the war’ –
Zinchenko says he feels for his compatriots and what they are experiencing.
“I can show you one million pictures,” he said.
“I can show you one million videos, what they (Russia) are doing now. I can show you every city in my country, which they destroyed.
“The people are starving there. The people are just surviving, sleeping on the ground, in bunkers, they cannot live a proper life.”
Zinchenko is scathing about the Russian players remaining largely mute about the war.
Russian captain Artem Dzyuba posted on Instagram his disgust at FIFA and UEFA earlier this week expelling Russia from the 2022 World Cup and all other international competitions.
However, Dzyuba’s fellow Russian international Fedor Smolov had posted ‘no to war’ on Instagram soon after the invasion began on February 24.
“I was surprised that no-one, not one of them, from all of them (has said anything),” said Zinchenko.
“Most of them play in the national team and they have a lot of followers on Instagram, Facebook, wherever.
“And they can, they can at least they can do something to stop this war. Because the people can hear them.
“I already know that they scared. But they’re scared of what? They’re (the Russian government) not gonna do anything with them.
“At least they can say their positions, but they don’t they just ignore it. I don’t know why.”
Zinchenko said he had hesitated about giving the interview but ultimately decided the pros outnumbered the cons.
“I was thinking a few days about this interview. Should I do it? Should I not?” he said.
“But I just want to send the message to all the people that please don’t ignore this. We need to stop the war.”
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