PARIS (Reuters) – Discussions about the war in Ukraine on the tennis circuit avoid the important issues and are just empty words that do not support people who are suffering, Ukrainian Elina Svitolina said on Monday.
The 28-year-old former world number three stopped playing shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
She returned to action in April this year following the birth of her first child but said she was disappointed by what she had been hearing on the tour regarding Ukraine.
“What I found is a lot, I don’t know in a nicer way to say, but a lot of rubbish is happening around the situation where we have to focus on what is the main point of what is going on,” Svitolina said after her 6-2 6-2 win over Martina Trevisan in the French Open first round.
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“A lot of Ukrainian people need help and support and we are focusing on so many things, like empty words, empty things that are not helping the situation.”
Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk was booed on Sunday at the end of her first round loss after refusing to shake hands with Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka. Belarus has served as a staging ground for Russian troops in the war.
Kostyuk then urged Sabalenka to take a personal stand against the war, saying she had a duty to speak up because of her status as a top player.
Russian and Belarusian players have continued to compete on the tour, albeit as neutral athletes and without a flag, since the invasion in February 2022.
“I want to invite everyone to focus on helping Ukrainians, to help kids, to help women who lost their husbands,” said Svitolina, who last week won her first tournament since her comeback.
“We are missing the main point that people at this time need help as never before. The kids are losing their parents, they are losing parts of their bodies.”
“We are missing the main point and talking, talking, talking about nothing,” she said. “Well, here, empty, completely empty words. Not helping.”
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Toby Davis)
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