Conflicts & War

The Ukrainian athlete who turned from training Russians to fighting them

By Luis Angel Reglero

Kharkiv, Ukraine, Jun 6 (EFE).- Oleksiy Lazarenko had several Russians in the ice hockey team he used to train in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv before swapping his sticks and gloves for weapons to defend his country.

“We don’t have any choice. We need to protect our families, our country and our cities. We need to protect Europe against this … enemy,” Lazarenko tells Efe from a hospital where he is recovering from a wound.

The former Ukraine national ice hockey forward played for clubs in Russia, Canada and the United States in the 1990s and 2000s.

Lazarenko, 46, has spent 10 days in the hospital and is expected to be fit to return to the front line in a few days.

He was wounded along with three other soldiers at a checkpoint in the eastern Donetsk region, where he says the situation is “really complicated.”

Lazarenko and the other soldiers were exposed when the Russians attacked the checkpoint with an Uragan missile.

He and two other soldiers suffered a cerebral concussion, loss of consciousness, and nosebleed, among other injuries, he continues.

Russian troops, who control parts of that area, have “a lot of weapons,” while the Ukrainians are struggling to repel their advance there, he points out.

When the Russian invasion of its neighbor began on February 24, Lazarenko helped 85 Russians reach the border, near Kharkiv.

Among those Russians were 10 ice hockey players that he trained at Berserkers club.

And on top of that, now Russian propaganda calls the Ukrainians Nazis, he says, disappointedly.

Lazarenko explains that they are waiting for weapons to arrive from Europe, the United States and other countries, “but it’s going too slow.”

“We lose every day. We lost our soldiers. We waiting for the help,” he stresses.

“I just wanna tell like all the world to just believe in our army. We are strong and our guys are really ready to protect all Europe and all our country.”EFE


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