Speaking for the first time since Russian president Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, Capitals superstar and Russian national Alexander Ovechkin told reporters he supported peace, but didn’t go as far as to criticize Putin.
“It’s a hard situation. I have family back in Russia and it is scary moments,” Ovechkin said. “But we can’t do anything. We just hope it going to be end soon and everything is going to be all right.
“Please, no more war. It doesn’t matter who is in the war — Russia, Ukraine, different countries — I think we live in a world, like, we have to live in peace and a great world.”
Ovechkin has publicly backed Putin in the past, using his social media platform to declare support for the autocratic dictator. His profile picture on Instagram is with Putin, who sent a telegram that was read at Ovechkin’s wedding reception.
He sidestepped the question of whether he supports Putin when asked about it on Friday.
“Well, he is my president. But how I said, I am not involved in politics,” Ovechkin said. “I am an athlete and you know, how I said, I hope everything is going to be done soon. It’s [a] hard situation right now for both sides and everything. Everything I hope is going to end. I’m not in control of the situation.”
Speaking out against Putin is a potentially tenuous step to take for athletes who have ties to Russia or family in the country. Rangers winger Artemi Panarin had to take a leave of absence last season following allegations of abuse that emerged from the country, seemingly in response to his support of dissident politician Alexei Navalny.
Panarin and fellow Russian Igor Shesterkin have yet to speak publicly since Putin invaded Ukraine. Neither have the Islanders’ pair of Russian netminders, Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov.
The sports world has taken steps to isolate Russia, with UEFA removing the Champions League final from St. Petersburg and Formula 1 removing a race from Sochi. World No. 7 tennis player, Russian Andrey Rublev, also wrote, “No War Please” on a camera following his match at a tournament in Dubai.