Oleksandr Zinchenko: Arsenal footballer says he would fight in Ukraine if called up

Arsenal footballer Oleksandr Zinchenko has said he would leave the UK to fight in Ukraine if called up.

His comments came after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed into law a new bill which lowered the military mobilisation age from 27 to 25, boosting the country’s armed forces against invading Russian troops.

In a new interview, Zinchenko said he would answer any call up to go and fight on the frontline in Ukraine.

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

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The player said some of his former school friends had already fought in the war, adding: “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.”

“And, honestly, [it’s] so hard to accept this, but it is what it is. We cannot give up,” he told the BBC’s Newsnight programme.

The Premier League star said he has donated around £1m to help people in his home country since the full-scale invasion began on 24 February 2022.

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Zinchenko, who was born in northern Ukraine, has become a vocal spokesperson about the plight of his country, and said Ukraine had become a “shield” for the rest of Europe.

The 27-year-old spent some time in Russia, fleeing there with his parents after conflict broke out in Ukraine’s Donbas region in 2014 and beginning his professional football career there.

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However, also in the interview, Zinchenko said he is no longer in touch with any of his former teammates or friends who he played with in Russia.

The Arsenal defender started his career with Ufa in the Russian league in 2016 and said a small number had texted him, but since the invasion began he hadn’t spoken to any of them.

Zinchenko isn’t the only Ukrainian sports person to speak out about Russia’s invasion. Sergiy Stakhovsky, a retired tennis player, arrived in Kyiv a few days after the invasion begun and has spent two stints fighting Russia’s army.

And Marta Kostyuk, another tennis player, has been an outspoken voice on the war and said she worries her sport is forgetting about it.

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