Russian World Cup hero Fyodor Smolov has delivered a strong social media message to President Vladimir Putin as tensions escalate with Ukraine. The 32-year-old has supposedly become the first Russian footballer to condemn his country’s actions.
Prominent Ukrainian figures have called for action against Russia, who launched a military assault on the country on Thursday.
The Ukrainian military claims to have lost 40 troops already, and there are reports of civilian casualties.
Putin warns that anyone who tries to take on Russia will be met with an ‘instant’ response.
Western leaders continue to speak out, however, as sanctions are put in place while thousands attempt to flee Ukraine.
Putin has been condemned by many, but Smolov is reportedly the first footballer from Russia to follow suit.
On social media, he posted a solid black image captioned: “No to War!!!”, followed by two emojis, one of a broken heart and the other a Ukrainian flag.
Smolov has played in Moscow since 2018, switching from Lokomotiv to Dynamo last month.
He also featured in every single game of Russia’s famous World Cup run in 2018, during their home tournament, which eventually saw them crash out on penalties against Croatia.
Smolov is believed to have been born in Saratov, Russia – around 400 miles from the border with Ukraine.
The 32-year-old striker has earned 45 caps for Russia, scoring 16 goals. It remains to be seen whether his firm message will have a future effect on his national team status.
Ukrainian football heroes Andriy Shevchenko and Oleksandr Zinchenko have both spoken out in support of their homeland this week, with the latter wishing Putin a ‘painful death’ before Instagram reportedly deleted his post.
Former world heavyweight champion boxer Wladimir Klitschko has also condemned Russia, urging the world to take collective action.
The conflict has already had concrete effects on the sporting world, with the 2022 Champions League final set to be moved from its original location of Saint Petersburg.
Furthermore, F1 stars Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen have both suggested that they will not travel to Sochi this year to compete at the Russian Grand Prix.
The sport’s authorities are reportedly keeping a close eye on developments, and F1 teams have called a ‘crisis meeting‘ to decide the appropriate course of action.
It remains to be seen whether other Russian sports stars will follow Smolov’s lead.