Former Russia captain Igor Denisov says he fears for his life after publicly condemning Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
The 38-year-old labelled the brutal conflict "catastrophic", becoming one of just a small number of well-known Russian figures to speak out against the president, just a few months after the country's parliament passed legislation that could see dissidents who criticise Russia's military action jailed for up to 15 years.
"These events are catastrophic," Denisov told Russian YouTube channel Nobel. "It's horrific. I am not sure if I will be jailed or killed for these words, but I am speaking as it is."
The former midfielder, who represented Russia at two major international tournaments, insisted that he no longer feels pride in his country and revealed he recently wrote a letter to Putin asking him to end the war – which has seen thousands of people die and millions more driven from their homes and loved ones.
Denisov spent the entirety of his playing career in his homeland with spells at Zenit St Petersburg, Anzhi Makhachkala, Dynamo Moscow and Lokomotiv Moscow. He also made 54 appearances for the Russian national side, captaining the team between 2012 and 2016.
Russia have been banned from playing in international competitions as a result of the invasion of Ukraine, with their club sides also banned from European competitions such as the Champions League and the Europa League.
Denisov follows bravely in the footsteps of tennis stars Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev, as well as ice hockey aces Nikita Zadorov and Alex Ovechkin by becoming the latest Russian athlete to speak out against the invasion.
Rublev scrawled the words 'no war please' on a camera lens at the end of a match in Dubai back in February, while around the same time Zadorov uploaded a image to his Instagram page of a black screen with the words 'No War', along with the caption: "Stop it!"
Ovechkin, who had been pro-Putin in the past, told reporters: "Please, no more war. It doesn’t matter who is in the war – Russia, Ukraine, different countries – I think we have to live in peace and a great world."
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