‘A murderous country using athletes as propaganda’: Ukraine star calls for media blackout on Russia


Ukrainian star Marta Kostyuk has called on the global media to black out Russia from its reporting on the Australian Open in a lengthy social media post about the “murderous country” which “uses its athletes as part of its propaganda”.

Kostyuk booked a quarter-final berth against American Coco Gauff with a 6-2 6-1 winner over Russian qualifier Maria Timofeeva on Sunday but was enraged by a post on the US Open account about her victory.

The post used the Russian flag next to Timofeeva’s name and Kostyuk said the current set-up was not working where Russian and Belarusian tennis players were considered neutral players due to the invasion of Ukraine.

Kostyk said the concept of the neutral athlete does not exist because “these athletes have repeatedly said that everyone knows which countries they represent, the governments constantly say that these are their athletes”, the players use the flag on their social media accounts and that the media report on them as being from Russia and Belarus.

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“And so today, after my victory over the athlete from the aggressor country, the Russian flag was published on the official resource of one of the biggest tennis tournaments in the world,” she wrote.

Marta Kostyuk. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

“Today is the 697th day of full-scale war, and the sports world continues to promote a murderous country and a country that uses its athletes as part of its propaganda.

“I call on media representatives, officials and the sports community to stop using the tennis court to promote ‘Russian peace’.”

Fellow Ukrainians Dayana Yastremska and Elina Svitolina will feature in the fourth round on Monday and Kostyuk hopes their success will bring attention to the plight of their nation.

“I hope so because it really seems for a lot of people that it’s over,” she said in her post-match media conference.

“Something incredible happened,” she added, saying Ukraine had managed not to be captured in three days. “In Kyiv as well. So it was like all a miracle. I feel it’s not a miracle any more, so why talk about it? Yeah, I hope that the girls can keep on doing what they’re doing and reminding as much as possible.”

Kostyuk believes all players from Russia and Belarus should be banned from the tour until the war is over.

“The war is still there. People are still dying every day. I still don’t understand what all these players are doing here,” she said.

“Nothing really changed in my world. I feel like in general it’s a lot of processes happening to come to this point where people forget about it because, yeah, people get used to it. I understand that everyone has their own issues and everyone is focused on their thing.

“I think I’m here to remind everyone all the time that it’s still on, and it should be stopped. It’s not normal that it’s happening.”

Kostyuk said she was proud of her countrywomen for rising above the off-court distractions to succeeed.

“I think it just shows that there is no limit in human possibilities withstanding stress and all around it,” she said.

“For me personally, it was very difficult, but at the same time I’ve grown a lot as a person. The oddest things that have happened, they helped me to grow this quick. If there was never a war in my life, I don’t think I would be able to grow this much as I grew in the last two years.

“I think the more you can minimise this feeling of being a victim, I think the easier it is to get through life.

“I’m very proud of all of us, honestly, for standing for so long and not losing faith and still fighting and fighting for our rights and fighting for everyone basically. I think it just shows how strong Ukrainian people are.”

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