For the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, a Russian tennis player has publicly criticized the war, a move that may land her in trouble if and when she returns to her home country.
During a series of recent interviews with the Russian blogger Vitya Kravchenko in Barcelona that were published on YouTube, Daria Kasatkina described the war as “a full-blown nightmare,” said the end of the war was what she wanted most in life right now, and also came out as gay.
For Kasatkina, currently the highest-ranked Russian woman at No. 12, the statements were a rare move for a celebrity of her stature in Russia, where President Vladimir V. Putin has supported a series of laws against speaking out against the war and against expressing favorable views of homosexuality.
Kasatkina, 25, who goes by “Dasha,” said she wanted to train with and play against players “who don’t have to worry about being bombed,” according to the subtitles of the video, which circulated on Twitter on Tuesday. She expressed empathy for Ukrainian players who have been forced to leave their homes and to call tennis academies in Western Europe to ask for a place to train while the war rages in their country. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to have no home,” she said.
Lesia Tsurenko, a 33-year-old veteran from Kyiv, is one of those players. Tsurenko spent the early days of Wimbledon watching footage from Ukraine showing that Russians had bombed a shopping mall and other civilian targets.
“They’re just trying to kill as many people as possible,” Tsurenko said of the Russian military.
Kasatkina, asked whether she worried for her safety if she were to decide to return home following the busy summer schedule of tournaments in Europe and North America, replied, “Yes I have thought about that,” and said she felt powerless to change anything. “Even Europe can’t do” anything, she said, using an expletive.