Arsenal’s Zinchenko: I would go to fight in Ukraine

Oleksandr Zinchenko

Arsenal defender Oleksandr Zinchenko says he would leave the Premier League to fight in Ukraine if he were called up by his war-torn country.

This week, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, signed into law a measure lowering the country’s army mobilisation age from 27 to 25, the country’s parliament said on its website.

Mobilisation has been a divisive issue in a nation exhausted by more than two years of war with Russia, which has resulted in huge military losses.

In December, Mr Zelensky said that the army wanted to mobilise up to half a million people to battle Moscow’s forces in Ukraine.

Arsenal’s Zinchenko, who has won 60 caps for Ukraine, told BBC’s Newsnight programme he would answer a call-up.

“I think it’s a clear answer. I would go [to fight],” he said.

School friends fight in war

He added that former school friends were involved in the conflict.

“It’s tough to understand that just recently we’ve been in the same school, we were playing in the playground or on the football pitch, and now they have to defend our country,” he said.

“And, honestly, [it’s] so hard to accept this, but it is what it is. We cannot give up.”

The 27-year-old former Manchester City player told the BBC he had donated about £1 million to help people in his country since Russia’s invasion in 2022.

“I know maybe some people might think that it’s much easier... for me being here [in London] rather than being there [in Ukraine],” he said. “I really hope that this war will end soon.”

A number of Ukrainian sports stars have defended their country, including world heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (centre)
A number of Ukrainian sports stars have defended their country, including world heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (centre)

The Arsenal player, who began his senior career with Russian team Ufa, said he is no longer in contact with friends or former teammates who are in Russia.

“Since the invasion few [have] texted me and sent me some messages and I can’t blame them because this is not their fault,” he said.

“I cannot tell them, ‘Guys, do the protests outside and all these things,’ because I know they can be [put] in prison.”

He said Moscow’s invasion had shown “all of us Ukrainians that we can’t be friends” with Russians any more.

“We will never forget what they have done to us, to our people,” he added. “And that’s what I will teach my kids as well. And my kids will teach their kids. This is not acceptable.”

Though Zinchenko decided against fighting, he told AFP last year he hoped his children would understand why.

“I hope if my children ask me, ‘Daddy what did you do in that time, how did you help?’ I will be able to look them in their eyes and reply I was doing my best.”

A number of Ukrainian sports stars have previously joined the effort to defend their country, including world heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.

Vitali Klitschko, the former WBO world heavyweight boxing champion, is the mayor of Kyiv.

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