Alex Ovechkin spinning his Instagram comment on Russian, Ukraine

Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals hit the NHL’s media day on Monday to field the usual questions: “How’s the new coach? What did you think of the players that weren’t invited back? So, about eventually winning that Stanley Cup …?”

Breaking the monotony: Questions about Ovechkin’s political statement on Instagram, in which he held a sign that read “Save Children From Fascism” in a comment on Russian intervention in Ukraine’s ongoing internal conflict.

To reset the issue, via Russian Machine Never Breaks:

To recap, Save Children From Fascism is a social-media campaign promoted by the Russian government commenting explicitly on the situation in Ukraine. Protecting the children, the Kremlin argues, justifies its military adventurism. Ovechkin is one of several Russian celebrities who have been involved in the campaign.

But rather than express support for his friend Vladimir Putin’s military efforts, Ovechkin said the photo was meant to be taken literally.

When asked his intentions by the Washington Post, he said:

“I don’t want a war. Ukrainian and Russian people are close people and we have a war right now. That’s it.”

Craig Custance of ESPN.com also asked him:

"I don't try to make a statement," Ovechkin told ESPN.com. "Right now, as a Russian, I have lots of friends from Ukraine. I just don't want a war. Nobody wants a war. Especially when people are so close. It's hard to see especially when you live so close to Ukraine. It's hard and it's dangerous. People die."

Ovechkin said the situation in Ukraine was a focal point of his summer in Russia.

"We watch the news all the time," Ovechkin said. "It's hard. I have lots of friends up there. The people who live there, they don't want war. They just want to have a good life like all of us."

First off: Very happy the media stepped up and asked about this issue, even if it’s not exactly a deep dive on the specifics.

It’s entirely possible that Ovechkin’s a willing pawn here, standing for an anti-war message that’s been propagated into pro-war propaganda by the Kremlin. Although accusations of “fascism” would seem to go beyond a simple pacifist message.

Or he’s just a guy taking his marching orders from his government on how to support the war effort to the general public. He wouldn’t be the first or the last.

The question now becomes whether Ovechkin keeps getting asked about this conflict as it grows, and Russia’s role in it grows, or if these cursory inquiries about his politics are where it all ends.