Igor Denisov, the former captain of Russia’s national football team, has said he feared he could be “jailed or killed” as he spoke out to condemn his country’s war against Ukraine.
The 38-year-old has become the most senior former or current athlete who still lives in Russia to publicly condemn the conflict.
Denisov, who captained the Russian national team from 2012 to 2016, said in an interview with a sports journalist: “These events are catastrophic. It’s horrific. I am not sure if I will be jailed or killed for this, but I am saying it as it is.”
Denisov, who also scored in Zenit St Petersburg’s 2008 Uefa Cup final victory over Rangers, added that he had written to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, asking him to stop the war.
The Russian parliament recently passed legislation imposing jail terms of up to 15 years for anyone spreading “fake news” or carrying out any public action that would discredit the military action.
Tennis player Andrey Rublev wrote “no war please” on a camera lens at the end of a match in Dubai shortly after the invasion of Ukraine began in February.
Since the invasion began, the Russia national football team has been banned from competing in international competitions, while domestic teams have been barred from European tournaments.