Speaking out against Vladimir Putin as a Russian is a dangerous proposition.
Thousands of protestors of the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine have been detained across the country, some of them dragged to vans by police in riot gear. Long before the war, dozens of journalists were brutally beaten or killed across the course of years.
So when Russian tennis player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova spoke out against the "political motives" of the invasion on Monday, she did so with considerably more consequence than your average social media rebuke.
'I am in complete fear'
"Personal ambitions or political motives cannot justify violence,” Pavlyuchenkova wrote on Twitter. “This takes away from the future not only from us, but also from our children. I am confused and do not know how to help in this situation.
“I’m just an athlete who plays tennis. I am not a politician, not a public figure, I have no experience in this. I can only publicly disagree with these decisions taken and openly talk about it.
“Stop the violence, stop the war.”
Pavlyuchenkova is Russia's top-ranked woman tennis player and the No. 14 player in the world. She's not the first Russian to speak out since the invasion commenced last Thursday that's displaced more than 400,000 Ukrainians and claimed anywhere from 102 to 352 civilian lives as of Monday, depending on the source.
Fellow Russian tennis player Andrey Rublev staged his protest with a simple message written on a TV camera lens after a match in Dubai at the onset of the Russian invasion last week: "No war please."
Russian tennis player Andrey Rublev writes "No war please" on the camera following his advancement to the final in Dubai. pic.twitter.com/GQe8d01rTd
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) February 25, 2022
Russian Daniil Medvedev, who won the US Open last fall and is now the world's No. 1 player, echoed Rublev's statement on Thursday, calling for "peace all over the world." Neither took the defiant tone of Pavlyuchenkova, who stopped just short of calling out Putin by name with her condemnation of "personal ambitions" and "political motives."
The invasion entered its fifth day on Monday with Ukrainian resistance continuing to fight off Russian soldiers from taking over the capital of Kyiv.