Tennis star Daria Kasatkina says war in Ukraine must end and comes out as gay


Daria Kasatkina, Russia’s top-ranked tennis player, has come out as gay and criticized the war in Ukraine in an unusually candid interview that highlighted the difficulties top athletes have faced in dealing with the repercussions of the conflict, both at home and abroad. ‘abroad.

Kasatkina, 25, tackled two of Russia’s most sensitive topics – Ukraine and LGBTQ rights – in a wide-ranging conversation with Russian blogger Vitya Kravchenko that was recorded in Barcelona and posted to YouTube on Monday.

Kasatkina – the world No 12 in women’s tennis – said she wanted ‘an end to the war’ and described the conflict as ‘a nightmare in its own right’.

She said there “hasn’t been a single day since February 24,” when Russia invaded Ukraine, that she hasn’t read or thought about the war. She expressed empathy for Ukrainian players affected by the war.

“I want to play against players who have the opportunity to train and prepare for tournaments like me, who don’t have to worry about bombed courts and [having] nowhere to go,” she added. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to not have a house – not because you didn’t buy it, but because your house was taken.”

Kasatkina is the latest Russian athlete to speak out against the war, in defiance of Russian laws that prohibit anyone from criticizing what officials there call 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 more vague terms than Kasatkina.

Acknowledging the importance of the stance she was taking, Kasatkina broke down in tears in one of the videos when asked if she was afraid she could no longer return to Russia, admitting it was something she she had considered.

A horror-themed website told readers to “hunt” gay people. Then an activist was stabbed to death.

During the interview, Kasatkina also revealed that she has a girlfriend – an important decision, given that LGBTQ issues are taboo in Russia, where it has been illegal for almost a decade to disseminate information to minors. on “non-traditional sexual relationships”, including same-sex relationships.

“I think it’s important that influential people in the sport, or any other sphere really, talk about it,” she said, adding that “living in the closet” would be too difficult in the long run. “It’s useless, you will be constantly focused on it, until you choose to go out,” she said, although she added that it was up to each individual to decide “how to do it. and how many things to say”.

She later posted a photo on social media with figure skater Natalia Zabiiako – who has competed for Russia, Estonia and Canada – and the legend ‘my cutie pie’.

Last year, the US-based non-profit organization Freedom House gave Russia a score of zero for equal treatment of minorities, including gay people, in society. “LGBT+ people are also subject to considerable discrimination, which has worsened over the past decade,” the group wrote in its report.

Just two years ago, a constitutional amendment was passed defining marriage exclusively between a man and a woman. Russia has also banned pro-LGBTQ protests and restricted LGBTQ advocacy groups.

When asked when she thought it would be 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 the inclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes in major sporting events, after many international sports competitions banned them in response to the war in Ukraine. Tennis players have been allowed to enter many major tournaments as long as they remain neutral on the conflict – and they cannot compete under their national flags.

However, in a decision that later proved controversial in tennis, Wimbledon banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing – including Kasatkina and many of the world’s top male and female players.

Wimbledon ban in Russia and Belarus leaves 16 of top 100 out

Without explicitly giving an opinion on the ban, Kasatkina said “sport is not outside of politics”, but added that it “truly unites” people and nations.

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