Ukraine-Russia invasion: Smolov pleads 'no war!' as Zinchenko, Shevchenko & more call for solidarity

Russia Ukraine Shevchenko 2022Goal/Getty

Manchester City defender Oleksandr Zinchenko and former AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko are among the prominent sporting stars from Ukraine to have called for solidarity within their country as political tension in the region escalates.

Russia has begun a large-scale attack on its Eastern European neighbour, with military convoys entering Ukrainian soil from all directions on the orders of president Vladimir Putin.

Explosions have been heard across the nation, with Putin stating that resistance from outside powers will be met with an "instant" response, sparking serious concern among those that call that part of the world home.

What has been said?

Ukraine international Zinchenko, who plays for Manchester City, has said in a message posted on Instagram: “The whole civilised world is worried about the situation in my country. I can't stay away and try to convey my opinion.

"In the photo - my country. The country where I was born and raised. A country whose colours I defend in the international sports arena. A country that we try to glorify and develop. A country whose borders must remain inviolable.

"My country belongs to Ukrainians and no one will ever be able to appropriate it. We will not give up! Glory to Ukraine."

Those sentiments have been echoed by ex-Milan and Chelsea forward Shevchenko, who left his role as manager of the Ukraine national side in August 2021.

The 2004 Ballon d’Or winner has said on social media: "Ukraine is my motherland!

"I have always been proud of my people and my country! We have gone through many difficult times, and over the past 30 years we have formed as a nation!
"A nation of sincere, hardworking and freedom-loving citizens!

"This is our most important asset! Today is a difficult time for all of us. But we must unite! In unity we will win! Glory to Ukraine!"

Who else has spoken out?

Roman Yaremchuk, who unveiled an emblem in support of his homeland after scoring for Benfica against Ajax in the Champions League on Wednesday, has said: "I am Ukrainian and I am proud of that.

"Being thousands of kilometres away from my native country, I want to support everyone who is now in tension in their native land, now is the time to unite.

"This is our country, our history, our culture, our people and our borders. I would like to thank our defenders for their courage. Glory to Ukraine."

Russia international striker Fyodor Smolov, who plays for Dynamo Moscow, has appeared to condemn the actions of his country in a social media post that reads: "No war!!!"

Zenit Saint Petersburg player Yaroslav Rakitskiy, one of few Ukrainians playing in the Russian Premier League, showed his support for his home country with a post of the national flag on Instagram.

The post was captioned: "I’m Ukrainian! #PeaceinUkraine #StopWar"

For their Europa League game on Thursday night, Slavia Prague made Taras Kacharaba, who is from Ukraine, captain for the first time for their meeting with Fenerbahce.

Slavia, who have another Ukrainian player, Maksym Taloverov, posted on their official Twitter feed: "There are things far beyond the borders of football.

"Taras Kacharaba and Maksym Taloverov have maximum support from Slavia. The club offered them and their families all available help if necessary. We express our support for Ukraine and wish strength to all Ukrainians."

Before the game, all Slavia players wore yellow t-shirts over their kits, emblazoned with the slogan: 'We stand with Ukraine'. Meanwhile, fans of the Czech club could be heard chanting the name of the country as their side progressed to the round of 16.

In another Europa League fixture, Atalanta star Ruslan Malinovskyi revealed a 'No war in Ukraine' message on a t-shirt under his jersey after scoring on Thursday night.

It was not just Russian and Ukrainian teams and players who showed solidarity to the victims of the invasion however, with Barcelona and Napoli coming together before their Europa League clash to unveil a large banner with the slogan 'Stop War'.

Leading players and clubs from around the world of football have also shown their support to Ukraine, with Bayern Munich lighting up their Allianz Stadium in the yellow and blue of the nation's flag.

Bayern's star striker, Robert Lewandowski, wrote on Twitter: "Everything that is beautiful in sports is contradictory to what war brings. For all people who value freedom and peace, this is a time of solidarity with the victims of military aggression against Ukraine."

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Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has claimed that Russia have carried out missile strikes on Ukraine's infrastructure and on border guards.

Russia’s defence ministry has denied attacking any Ukrainian cities, with military infrastructure, air defence and air forces the focus of their attention.

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