Sports Minister: War has Killed 262 Ukrainian Athletes

A general view shows an empty street and buildings damaged by a Russian military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the front line city of Bakhmut, Ukraine March 3, 2023. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak
A general view shows an empty street and buildings damaged by a Russian military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the front line city of Bakhmut, Ukraine March 3, 2023. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak
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Sports Minister: War has Killed 262 Ukrainian Athletes

A general view shows an empty street and buildings damaged by a Russian military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the front line city of Bakhmut, Ukraine March 3, 2023. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak
A general view shows an empty street and buildings damaged by a Russian military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the front line city of Bakhmut, Ukraine March 3, 2023. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak

Russia's war against Ukraine has claimed the lives of 262 Ukrainian athletes and destroyed 363 sports facilities, the country's sports minister, Vadym Huttsait, said on Saturday.

Meeting the visiting president of the International Federation of Gymnastics, Morinari Watanabe, Huttsait said no athletes from Russia should be allowed at the Olympics or other sports competitions.

"They all support this war and attend events held in support of this war," Huttsait said, according to a transcript on President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's website.

The International Olympic Committee has recommended the gradual return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competition as neutrals. It has not decided on their participation in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Ukraine said on Friday its athletes will not be allowed to take part in qualifying events for the 2024 Games if they have to compete against Russians, a decision the IOC has criticized.

Reuters could not independently verify the number of Ukrainian athletes killed or how many facilities have been destroyed.

In the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion on Ukraine in February 2022, a number of Ukrainian national-level athletes have taken up arms voluntarily to defend their country.

Among those killed this year alone have been figure skater Dmytro Sharpar, who died in combat near Bakhmut, and Volodymyr Androshchuk, a 22-year-old decathlon champion and future Olympic hopeful.



Djokovic to Play Wimbledon but Only if He Feels He Can Challenge for the Title 

24 June 2024, United Kingdom, London: Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon ahead of the Wimbledon Championships, which begins on July 1st. (dpa)
24 June 2024, United Kingdom, London: Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon ahead of the Wimbledon Championships, which begins on July 1st. (dpa)
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Djokovic to Play Wimbledon but Only if He Feels He Can Challenge for the Title 

24 June 2024, United Kingdom, London: Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon ahead of the Wimbledon Championships, which begins on July 1st. (dpa)
24 June 2024, United Kingdom, London: Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon ahead of the Wimbledon Championships, which begins on July 1st. (dpa)

Novak Djokovic is encouraged by his progress after undergoing minor knee surgery less than three weeks ago, but the seven-times Wimbledon champion said he will only play in the grasscourt Grand Slam next month if he is able to fight for the title.

The 37-year-old picked up the injury to his right knee during his fourth-round win at the French Open and pulled out of the quarter-finals before having surgery on June 6, putting his Wimbledon and Olympic hopes in jeopardy.

But the Serb, whose Paris Games spot was confirmed earlier this month, posted videos of his return to training on Instagram last week before arriving at the All England Club on Sunday and immediately ramping up his preparations.

"I didn't come here to play a few rounds," Djokovic told the BBC after practice on Monday. "If I know I can play close to my maximum or at maximum, then I'll play. If not, then I'll give somebody else a chance to play.

"Rehab is going in the right direction every single day, a few percent better and better. That's what's giving me hope and encouragement to keep going.

"I'm taking things gradually. I'm not pushing myself yet 100% but I'm hoping that's going to come in the next few days."

The world number two is looking to end his title drought in 2024 after winning three of the four Grand Slams last year, as he hunts for a record-extending 25th major trophy.

His only defeat in the Grand Slams in 2023 came at Wimbledon where he was beaten in five sets by Carlos Alcaraz in the title decider.

Wimbledon runs from July 1-14.