Ukrainian tennis player Lesia Tsurenko on Wednesday criticised Russian “lies” over a missile strike on a shopping mall, saying she knew people affected by the attack after reaching the third round of Wimbledon. Tsurenko, who wore a ribbon in the Ukraine colours, recovered from losing the first set to beat compatriot Anhelina Kalinina 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. The 33-year-old said both players felt “amazing support” on Court 12, with fans waving Ukrainian flags. In her post-match press conference she said she had been given permission by Wimbledon chiefs to wear the ribbon, referring to the “horrible things that are going on in Ukraine”.
“Especially, it’s very painful for me to see that Russian propaganda is just saying that, for example, that shopping mall in Kremenchuk was not working,” she said.
“That’s a lie, because my fitness coach, he’s from that city. His mother-in-law… she’s working in this shopping centre, and she was lucky that she had a day off.”
“Him and his father, they were not far away from that place… the father fell down because of the (shock) wave.”
A Russian missile on Monday destroyed the shopping centre in the central city of Kremenchuk and — according to local officials — killed at least 18 civilians.
The Russian army said the following day it had hit a nearby weapons depot with the explosion sparking the blaze at the centre, which, according to Moscow, was “not operational” at the time.
Tsurenko said she felt powerless and “very guilty” over the situation in her war-torn homeland, which was invaded by Russia in February.
“I feel that it seems like there is nothing I can do,” she said. “So the only thing is continue playing, and as I said, I donate 10 percent of my prize money.”
Tsurenko said she supported Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from the Grand Slam.
She said she had heard from just one Belarusian player and one Russian player, who had told her they were against the war.
“I thought I have a lot of friends on tour, especially from Russians and Belarusians,” she added.
Tsurenko, ranked 101, urged people around the world to help if they could.
“If they think that to donate $10 means nothing, no, it’s not true,” she said. “It means a lot. In the city, in the main city of my region, Mykolaiv region, they don’t have water for few months already.
“So if you think that $10 is nothing, it is 10 bottles of water for these people.”
The player said her driver from the hotel to Wimbledon on Wednesday was hosting two people from Ukraine in her own home, describing such help as “amazing”.
“I have been at the Polish border with Ukraine, and I saw hundreds, thousands of people,” she said. “They just don’t know where they go. They have all their life in two bags.
“They have kids, grandfather, grandmother maybe with them, and some, also disabled people. And they are lost. So any support that you give to Ukrainians is amazing.”
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