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24th Feb 2022

Zenit drop Ukrainian defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy for speaking out against Russian invasion

Callum Boyle

Yaroslav Rakitskiy was named on the substitutes bench

Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg dropped their Ukrainian defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy for their Europa League game against Real Betis on Thursday night after he spoke out against the ongoing Russian invasion.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion on Ukraine after he ordered his troops to cross the border on multiple fronts.

It’s been reported that ‘hundreds’ of Ukrainian troops have already been killed whilst harrowing video footage has shown Russian aircraft firing missiles across the sky and into several airports. Multiple explosions have also been heard in cities across the country.

Zenit are the first Russian side to have played since Putin made his announcement and made the decision to drop the 32-year-old Ukrainian Rakitskiy from their starting XI after he posted a picture of the Ukrainian flag on his Instagram with the caption: “I’m Ukrainian!’

As per the MailOnlineone of the reasons behind this decision is that Zenit are largely owned by Gazprom – who are owned by the Russian government, and are also the club that Putin supports.

Gazprom also pay in excess of £33m a year to sponsor the Champions League – which was due to take place in St. Petersburg at the Gazprom Arena – however UEFA have confirmed they will seek a new venue instead.

Wembley Stadium, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and West Ham United’s London Stadium have all been touted as possible venues, but no official announcement will be made until after the second legs of the semi-finals, due to take place on May 3-4.

German side Schalke 04 are also sponsored by Gazprom but revealed in a statement on Thursday that they will be removing the sponsor from their shirts with immediate effect.

Meanwhile Russian international and Dynamo Moscow forward Fedor Smolov became the highest-profile Russian sportsman to publicly condemn the invasion of Ukraine, posting to Instagram with the simple caption: “No to war.”

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