Tennis star Daria Kasatkina says that the war in Ukraine must end, comes out as gay

Tennis star Daria Kasatkina says that the war in Ukraine must end, comes out as gay

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Daria Kasatkina, Russia’s highest ranked female tennis player, has come out as gay and criticized the war in Ukraine in an unusually candid interview that highlighted the difficulties top athletes face in navigating the consequences of the conflict – both at home and abroad.

Kasatkina, 25, touched on two of the most sensitive topics in Russia – Ukraine and LGBTQ rights – in a comprehensive conversation with Russian blogger Vitya Kravchenko, which was recorded in Barcelona and posted on YouTube on Monday.

Kasatkina – the world’s No. 12 in women’s tennis – said she wanted “the war to end” and described the conflict as “a complete nightmare”.

She said that “there had not been a single day since February 24”, when Russia invaded Ukraine, that she had not read or thought about the war. She expressed empathy for Ukrainian players affected by the war.

“I want to play against players who have an opportunity to train and prepare for tournaments just like me, who do not have to worry about courts being bombed and [having] nowhere to go, she added. “I can not imagine what it is like to have no home – not because you did not buy it, but because your home was taken away.”

Kasatkina is the last Russian athlete to speak out against the war, in violation of Russian law, which prohibits anyone from criticizing what officials call Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. Several other Russian tennis players have called for an end to the war, including men’s No. 8 Andrey Rublev – although many have done so in more vague terms than Kasatkina.

Kasatkina acknowledged the importance of the attitude she took, and broke down in tears in one of the videos when she was asked if she was afraid she would no longer be able to return to Russia, and admitted that it was something she had considered.

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During the interview, Kasatkina also revealed that she has a boyfriend – a significant feature, given that LGBTQ issues are taboo in Russia, where it has been illegal for almost a decade to spread information to minors about “untraditional sexual relationships” including gay relationships.

“I think it’s important that influential people from sports, or any other sphere, talk about it,” she said, adding that “living in the closet” would be too difficult in the long run. “It’s pointless, you’ll always be focused on it, until you choose to come out,” she said, although she added that it was up to each individual about “how to do it and how much to tell. . “

She later post a picture on social media with figure skater Natalia Zabiiako – who has competed for Russia, Estonia and Canada – and the caption “my cutie pie”.

Last year, the US-based non-profit organization Freedom House gave Russia a zero score for equal treatment of minorities, including gays, in society. “LGBT + people are also exposed to significant discrimination, which has worsened over the past decade,” the group wrote in its report.

Just two years ago, a constitutional amendment was passed that defined marriage exclusively as between a man and a woman. Russia has also banned pro-LGBTQ demonstrations and restricted LGBTQ advocacy groups.

Asked when she thought it would be acceptable for a same-sex couple to hold hands in Russia, Kasatkina replied: “Never.”

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Kasatkina also entered the global debate on the inclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes in major sporting events, after many international sports competitions banned them in response to the war in Ukraine. Tennis players have been allowed to compete in many major tournaments as long as they remain neutral in the conflict – and they cannot compete under their national flag.

However, in a move that later proved controversial in tennis, Wimbledon banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in total – including Kasatkina, and many of the world’s best male and female players.

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Although he did not explicitly give an opinion on the ban, Kasatkina said that “sports are not outside politics”, but added that they “really unite” people and nations.

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