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Aryna Sabalenka confronted by Ukrainian journalist over stance on war

Sabalenka was asked to condemn the war by the reporter during a tense exchange at Roland Garros

Jamie Braidwood
Thursday 01 June 2023 10:16 BST
Kostyuk 'didn't deserve' boos - says Sabalenka over Ukrainian's handshake refusal

Aryna Sabalenka was confronted by a Ukrainian journalist in a tense exchange at the French Open on Wednesday, where the Belarusian declined to answer questions about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion and world No 2, was asked by the reporter to condemn Belarus’ role in supporting Russia’s invasion and whether she personally supports authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko - who is a close ally of Vladimir Putin.

After her first-round win over Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk on Sunday, Sabalenka said, “Nobody in this world, Russian athletes or Belarusian athletes, support the war”.

But as Sabalenka advanced to the third round on Wednesday, the Ukrainian journalist asked Sabalenka to condemn the invasion and the role Belarus is playing to support Russia in the conflict.

“I’ve got no comments to you,” Sabalenka said in response to the journalist during her post-match press conference.

The 25-year-old also refused to answer when she asked if she supported Lukashenko, who celebrated Sabalenka’s Australian Open victory in January during a national address.

When the Ukrainian journalist tried to ask a third question, the press conference moderator stepped in and stopped the line of questioning.

Sabalenka added: “You’ve got enough answers from me, and I’ve got no comments to you.”

Kostyuk, who refused to shake Sabalenka’s hand following the first-round match at Roland Garros, urged reporters to ask Sabalenka to condemn the war on Sunday.

Kostyuk said: "She (Sabalenka) never says that she personally doesn’t support this war, and I feel like journalists should change the questions you ask these athletes because the war is already there.”

When questioned on Sunday, Sabalenka had said: “About the war situation, I said it many, many times: Nobody in this world, Russian athletes or Belarusian athletes, support the war. Nobody. How can we support the war? Nobody, normal people will never support it.”

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