Kasatkina – world No. 12 in women’s tennis – said she wanted “the end of the war” and described the conflict as a “full blown nightmare”.
She said it 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 her sympathy for the Ukrainian players affected by the war.
“I want to play against players who, like me, have the opportunity to train and prepare for tournaments who don’t have to worry about courts being bombed [having] not going anywhere,” she added. “I can’t imagine not having a home – not because you didn’t buy it, but because your home was taken from you.”
Kasatkina is the latest Russian athlete to speak out against the war, despite laws in Russia prohibiting anyone from criticizing what officials there are calling 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 vaguer terms than Kasatkina.
Acknowledging the importance of her stance, Kasatkina burst into tears in one of the videos when asked if she was afraid of not being able to return to Russia and admitted she had thought about it.
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During the interview, Kasatkina also revealed that she has a girlfriend — a significant step considering LGBTQ issues are taboo in Russia, where it’s been illegal for nearly a decade to share information about “non-traditional sexual relationships,” including gay ones relationships, to disseminate to minors.
“I think it’s important that influential people from sport, but also from other areas, talk about it,” she said, adding that “living in secret” is too difficult in the long run. “It’s pointless, you’re going to be constantly focused on it until you decide to come out,” she said, although she added that it’s up to everyone “how to do it and how much to tell.”
you later posted a photo on social media featuring figure skater Natalia Zabiiako – who has competed for Russia, Estonia and Canada – and captioned “my cutie pie”.
Last year, the US-based non-profit organization Freedom House gave Russia a zero score for equal treatment of minorities, including homosexuals, in society. “LGBT+ people also face 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 defines marriage exclusively between a man and a woman. Russia has also banned pro-LGBTQ demonstrations and restricted LGBTQ advocacy groups.
When asked when she thought it was acceptable for a same-sex couple to hold hands in public in Russia, Kasatkina replied, “Never.”
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Kasatkina also addressed the global debate over including Russian and Belarusian athletes in major sporting events after many international sporting competitions banned them in response to the war in Ukraine. Tennis players have been allowed to play in many major tournaments as long as they remain neutral on the conflict – and they cannot compete under their national flags.
In a move that would later prove controversial in tennis, Wimbledon banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing altogether – including Kasatkina and many of the world’s top male and female players.
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Without commenting specifically on the ban, Kasatkina said that “sport is not outside of politics,” but added that it “really unites people and nations.”