Elina Svitolina says it is ‘right’ to ban players from Wimbledon if they don’t speak out against Russian regime

Shahida Jacobs
Elina Svitolina addresses the media

Elina Svitolina, Marta Kostyuk and Sergiy Stakhovsky insist “there comes a time when silence is betrayal” as they feel that athletes who don’t denounce the Russian government should not be allowed to compete at international events, including Wimbledon, ATP, WTA and ITF events.

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) have banned Russian and Belarusian players from competing at all grass-court tournaments, including this year’s The Championships.

The move comes on the back of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February and the stance is a lot stricter than the ATP, WTA and ITF’s policy as players from the two countries can still compete, but only as individuals with their flags and anthems banned.

World No 1 Novak Djokovic and tennis great Martina Navritilova have both criticised the decision by the LTA and AELTC.

Novak Djokovic and Martina Navratilova hit out at Wimbledon’s Russian ban

However, Ukraine trio Svitolina, Kostyuk and Stakhovsky issued a statement on Wednesday in which they said that if players don’t denounce the Russian government then they should not be allowed to compete in any sport at international level.

“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. 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,” the post read.

“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 [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s and [Belarus President Alexander] Lukashenko’s regime?”

“If applicable, we demand to exclude and ban Russia and Belarusian athletes from competing in any international event, as Wimbledon already done.

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal, and that time is now.”

Svitolina was also interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast in which she said those who speak out against Putin and co should be allowed to compete, but if they remain silence then it is “right” to ban them.

“We don’t want them banned completely,” the current world No 25 said.

If players don’t speak out against the Russian government then it is the right thing to ban them.

“We just want them to speak up, if they are with us and the rest of the world or the Russian government. This is for me the main point.

“If they didn’t choose, they didn’t vote for this government, then it’s fair they should be allowed to play and compete.”