The foreign affairs minister of Ukraine criticized Wimbledon for lifting its ban on Russian and Belarusian players, allowing them to participate under certain strict conditions. Dmytro Kuleba condemned the decision and accused the All England Club of “accommodating two accomplices in crime“.
The decision of Wimbledon to allow Russian and Belarusian players to participate in the upcoming tournament as neutrals have drawn criticism. Previously, Wimbledon had banned athletes from these countries in response to the Ukrainian conflict. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba has called the All England Club’s decision “immoral” and is urging his government to deny the players visas.
On Friday, the foreign affairs minister tweeted “Wimbledon’s decision to permit the participation of Russian and Belarusian players is immoral“. Kuleba criticized the club for hosting Russia and Belarus, whom he referred to as “accomplices in crime“. He further stated that despite Russia’s continuing aggression and atrocities, Wimbledon has chosen to host them. He urged the UK government to refuse visas to these players.
The Lawn Tennis Association has also decided to permit Russian and Belarusian players to participate in their tournaments as neutral players, following Wimbledon’s decision. Both organizations stated that the athletes would have to sign “neutrality agreements” and adhere to strict regulations. Wimbledon has explicitly stated that any expressions of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or players receiving financial assistance from Russia or Belarus will not be allowed.
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Russian and Belarusian tennis players permitted to participate in Wimbledon as neutrals
As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Wimbledon had prohibited Russian and Belarusian players from participating in the tournament last year. However, this year, the organizers have decided to permit these players to compete under neutral flags. The tournament organizers had stated that this was a viable option according to the guidelines provided by the UK government.
In preparation for the 2023 Wimbledon tournament, The All England Club and the Committee of Management of The Championships have made revisions to their rules. These new regulations include a ban on any “expressions of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” and also prohibit players who are receiving financial assistance from the Russian and/or Belarusian states from participating in the tournament.
As a consequence of the ban on Russian and Belarusian players at Wimbledon last year, the tournament’s ranking points were revoked in 2022. In addition, the LTA and AELTC were fined substantial amounts by the WTA and ATP tours. Wimbledon was the only Grand Slam tournament that banned players from Russia and Belarus in 2022, while these players were allowed to compete under neutral flags in other events. Currently, two Russian players, Daniil Medvedev (ranked 5th) and Andrey Rublev (ranked 7th), feature in the top 10 of the ATP rankings. In the women’s rankings, Belarusian player Aryna Sabalenka is ranked 2nd in the world, and Russia’s Daria Kasatkina is ranked 8th.
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