Ukraine condemns Wimbledon’s decision to lift ban on Russian players

Ukraine has condemned the “immoral” decision to allow Russian and Belarusian tennis players to play Wimbledon after tournament organizers announced on Friday they would lift a ban imposed in 2022.

Competitors from the two nations can compete in the Grand Slam, which begins July 3, if they are “neutral” athletes and meet certain conditions.

Players will be banned from expressing support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and those receiving funds from the Russian or Belarusian states, including sponsorship of state-run or state-controlled companies, will be banned.

The All England Club, which governs Wimbledon, said the decision came after discussions with the UK Government, the UK’s ruling Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and international tennis bodies.

Russian and Belarusian players at other tournaments in the UK are also required to sign neutrality declarations.

Wimbledon last year banned players from Russia and Moscow-ally Belarus – both of which boast top stars – following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, while the LTA banned them from its events.

Elsewhere, players could compete as neutrals on the men’s and women’s tours, including at the other Grand Slams.

“We continue to strongly condemn the illegal invasion of Russia and wholeheartedly support the people of Ukraine,” said Ian Hewitt, Chairman of the All England Club.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision that was not taken lightly or without much consideration for those involved.

“In our view, taking all factors into account, these are the most appropriate arrangements for the championships this year.”

Culture Minister Lucy Frazer said the government supports the new policy.

“During Putin’s ongoing war in Ukraine, we made it clear that Russian and Belarusian athletes representing their country should not be allowed to compete in national and international sport,” she said.

“This position still stands. Individual, self-funded Russian and Belarusian athletes can compete in the UK provided they follow our neutrality guidelines.”

– “accomplices in crime” –

But Ukraine’s foreign minister has blasted the decision, urging Britain to refuse entry to participants from the two countries.

“Wimbledon’s decision to allow Russian and Belarusian players to participate is immoral,” Dmytro Kuleba said on social media.

“Has Russia stopped its aggression or atrocities? No, Wimbledon just decided to admit two accomplices to the crime. I call on the UK government to refuse visas to their players.”

The LTA and the All England Club were fined after the harsh sanctions were imposed last year and Wimbledon were stripped of ranking points.

The LTA said Friday it stands by its decision to ban the players in 2022.

But it stressed the “real prospect of our membership being terminated if we were to repeat the ban in 2023”, which would mean tournament cancellations.

“The impact of the LTA’s ban on UK tennis from the tours would be very damaging and far reaching for the game in our country,” the LTA said.

Russian players Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev are both in the men’s top 10, while Daria Kasatkina is eighth in the women’s.

Aryna Sabalenka, number two in the Belarusian women’s world, won the Australian Open earlier this year.

The men’s ATP tour and women’s WTA tour welcomed Wimbledon’s decision, saying in a joint statement: “It has taken a concerted effort from across the sport to arrive at a workable solution that protects the fairness of the game .

“This remains an extremely difficult situation and we would like to thank Wimbledon and the LTA for their efforts to achieve this result while reiterating our unequivocal condemnation of Russia’s war against Ukraine.”


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