Finally addressing the crisis in Ukraine, Alexander Ovechkin said a few words at a press conference in Philadelphia that sounded good but ultimately made no sense.
"It's a difficult situation. You know, I have a lot of friends in Russia and Ukraine and it's hard to see the war. I hope it's over soon.
"Please no more wars. It doesn't matter who is at war - Russia, Ukraine, different countries, I think we live in a world where we have to live in peace and in a big world."
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To direct questions about whether or not he supports invading Ukraine, he brushed them off, saying, "It's not in my hands." To Vladimir Putin, who says: "He's my president, but as I said before, I'm not in politics, I'm an athlete."
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It was fair to ask the Washington Capitals star about Vladimir Putin and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. After all, he's probably the most famous athlete to publicly support Autocrat and even start a social media movement called PutinTeam in 2017, as detailed in a 2017 Washington Post article:
"Today I want to announce a social movement on behalf of PutinTeam," Ovechkin wrote in the Post, along with a photo of Ovechkin being hugged by the Russian leader. "Being part of this team - for me it's a privilege, it's like putting on the Russian team shirt and knowing that the whole country is supporting you."
It was fair to ask these questions of Ovechkin, but no one should have expected anything more than a cursory response prepared by the PR team. Ovechkin is the greatest scoring talent in hockey history and it was hilarious to see him celebrate with the trophy, but no one has ever accused him of being politically astute.
The Moscow-born superstar also mentioned that he has friends and family in Russia, people who could be used as leverage if he ever decides to betray the ruler of the Kremlin.
To be fair, nothing in Russian politics, especially when it comes to American interests, is easy and hackneyed. Oh sure, Putin is bad enough, but there are no good guys in this proxy war between the United States and Russia, only the oligarchs, imperialists and poor innocents of Ukraine and Russia caught in the middle. Nothing can justify Putin's naked aggression against a sovereign state, but this moment has been building since the fall of a Moscow-leaning government in 2014 and growing US influence in the region. For example, Ovi, 36, was wise enough not to mention that many Russians accuse the United States of fomenting war in the region, which could benefit American oil companies and military contractors like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.
No, nothing is as simple as cable news and a few retweets would make it seem.
Artemi Panarin, the star Russian winger for the New York Rangers, has been highly critical of Putin, particularly over the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. President Joe Biden has warned Putin of serious consequences if Navalny dies in prison. But Navalny, it turns out, isn't a good guy either, as Amnesty International removed her 'prisoner of conscience' tag for her xenophobia and advocacy of violence, although she was quick to canceled this decision.
In the end, Ovechkin expressed what everyone hopes for: that the crisis is over and there will be peace.
But historically, it has always been easier to say you oppose war than to denounce your wartime government. That's something to remember in the coming days, as this Cold War remnant gets even hotter.