No win­ners among east Ukraine’s war-hit ath­letes

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY YU­LIA SILINA

Igor Moiseyev should now be prac­tic­ing karate with a Ja­panese mas­ter on Ok­i­nawa Is­land, but in­stead the black belt is hav­ing to re­pair his war-dam­aged gym in Donetsk, east Ukraine.

He is just one of many lo­cal ath­letes and sports­men hit by the year-long con­flict be­tween pro-Rus­sian sep­a­ratists and Ukrainian forces that has left more 6,000 dead.

“In our vil­lage, which is 2 kilo­me­ters (over a mile) from Donetsk air­port, there is not a sin­gle house in­tact, and our home and our dojo (train­ing place) were hit,” ex­plained the karate teacher.

“Be­fore the war, my club was very strong. We won many tro­phies at world and Euro­pean cham­pi­onships. Now, due to the mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties, we only have 10 per­cent of the stu­dents.”

The self-pro­claimed Donetsk Peo­ple’s Repub­lic ( DNR) that took power in the re­gion last year is not rec­og­nized by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble to com­pete abroad.

“We try to par­tic­i­pate in lo­cal com­pe­ti­tions to keep the chil­dren ac­tive,” Moiseyev said.

“If par­ents don’t have money to pay for train­ing, we do it for free, de­spite our run­ning costs.”

Only the help of col­leagues in Rus­sia and the Czech Repub­lic has kept the club’s doors open, said Moiseyev, adding that coun­ter­parts in Ukraine had of­fered lit­tle sup­port.

“We of­ten went to com­pe­ti­tions in Lviv and in the Carpathian Moun­tains (both in west­ern Ukraine), but no Ukrainian club has of­fered to help.”

Bas­ket­ball player Oleg Golovin, 34, has been train­ing for a year ahead of the EuroBas­ket 2015 bi­en­nial tour­na­ment, which was ini­tially meant to take place in Ukraine, but which will now be hosted by France, Croa­tia, Ger­many and Latvia in Septem­ber.

He too re­vealed frus­tra­tions at au­thor­i­ties in Kiev.

“I didn’t take any sides when all this po­lit­i­cal un­rest be­gan and took care of my busi­ness, de­vel­op­ing bas­ket­ball among chil­dren,” he ex­plained.

“Ukraine con­sid­ered at­tempts to keep my busi­ness run­ning as a crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, and now I no longer have any con­tact with Ukraine,” he added.

Strapped for cash

For race car driver Va­syl Kobenok, 28, the un­rec­og­nized DNR’s ex­clu­sion from in­ter­na­tional sport­ing bod­ies is a big prob­lem.

“Even the Rus­sian Au­to­mo­bile Fed­er­a­tion has not of­fi­cially ac­cepted us,” he lamented.

But scrap­ing to­gether enough money to buy fuel and get his car on the start­ing grid is now the big­gest chal­lenge fac­ing Kobenok, a past win­ner in Ukraine.

“Pre­par­ing the car has be­come two to three times more ex­pen­sive,” he said.

“Last year, com­pet­ing in a rally in Odessa would set us back around 10,000 hryv­nias ($425, 392 eu­ros) and now it is be­tween 20,000 and 22,000 hryv­nias.”

But a short stay to take care of his daugh­ter in Crimea — the Ukrainian penin­sula an­nexed by Rus­sia in March 2014 — at the height of the fight­ing in eastern Ukraine has con­vinced him home, de­spite the ob­sta­cles.

“Living in Crimea, I re­al­ized how dif­fi­cult it is to live in an­other state, away from home,” he said.

“I will stay in Donetsk and I plan to con­tinue my ca­reer here. I want to de­velop the sport in my home­town, teach­ing mo­tor­sports to chil­dren.”

Eques­trian cen­tre direc­tor Irma Svetlich­naya has also vowed to stay, de­spite choos­ing to take an in­def­i­nite break from com­pe­ti­tion.

“We do not par­tic­i­pate in com­pe­ti­tions be­cause we don’t want the horses to get hurt,” she ex­plained. “We don’t want them to go through the check­points and con­flict zones. No medal is worth it.

“All the fields are mined and we also have huge prob­lems get­ting food for the horses.

“We only sur­vive thanks to car­ing peo­ple,” added the 25-year-old, who now spends her time look­ing af­ter the cen­tre’s 26 horses.

to stay



A photo taken in Donetsk on March 27 shows Igor Moiseyev, a karate teacher from a vil­lage lo­cated 2 kilo­me­ters from Donetsk air­port.

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