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Ukrainian tennis player says Russians should be allowed to compete on one condition

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Elina Svitolina, Ukraine’s top-ranked professional tennis player, has said Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed to compete at Wimbledon if they condemn President Vladimir Putin’s regime and the invasion of Ukraine.

Wimbledon host All England Lawn Tennis Club on Wednesday banned players from both countries from taking part in this year’s tournament. The British government had previously suggested that Russian players would have to denounce their government and Putin in order to compete.

“We don’t want them banned altogether,” Svitolina told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast on Thursday.

“If the players are not speaking out against the Russian government, then it’s the right thing to do to ban them,” she said. “We just want them to speak out if they are with us and the rest of the world or the Russian government.

“That’s the main thing for me. If they didn’t choose, didn’t vote for this government, then it’s only right that they be allowed to play and compete.

Svitolina, a two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist who was ranked world No. 3, released a statement on social media on Wednesday urging tennis governing bodies ATP, WTA and ITF to ask all Russian and Belarus players to do their position on the invasion clear.

She asked them to answer three questions: “1. Do you support the invasion of Russia and Belarus on Ukrainian territory and, consequently, the war started by these countries? 2. Do you support Russian and Belarusian military activities in Ukraine? 3. Do you support Putin and Lukashenko’s regime?

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal, and that time has come,” she wrote.

Tennis legends Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Novak Djokovic have said they don’t support Wimbledon’s decision.

“I think it’s crazy. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good,” said Djokovic, the men’s number 1 player, who hails from Serbia.

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