Andriy Shevchenko made an emotional appearance on Italian television on Sunday night as he opened up on his fear for the safety of his relatives who are still in Ukraine.
Shevchenko, 45, is best remembered from his playing career for his time as a striker at AC Milan and recently spent two months as manager of Genoa in Serie A.
In an appearance on ‘Che Tempo Che Fa’ on Italian broadcaster RAI, Shevchenko spoke about the concerns he has for his family who chose to stay in his homeland.
An emotional Andriy Shevchenko opened up on his concerns for his family still in Ukraine in an appearance on Italian television on Sunday night
Shevchenko has legendary status in football from his time playing for Ukraine and AC Milan
‘My mum, my sister and other relatives of mine are still in Ukraine, I speak to them every day. It was their choice to stay,’ he explained.
‘I can’t look at what’s happening to my country without crying. They tell me the truth of what’s happening in Ukraine, bombed cities, children and old people killed.
‘We need to try and convince Russia to cease fire, find a diplomatic solution and stop this war.’
Shevchenko also made a direct appeal to the people of Italy to help welcome Ukrainians feeling the country after Russia’s invasion.
‘When I arrived in Italy, the country opened its heart to me. You made me feel like one of you, and I feel like it’s my second home,’ he said.
‘Now I ask you: open your hearts to my people, we need your help… make them feel like you made me feel. There is already a lot of affection from everyone, I know, but I ask for more.’
Shevchenko paid tribute to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, saying: ‘Ukraine wants to be part of Europe, it was our decision as a people. Zelensky is a great president who guides us for our independence and our freedom.’
Shevchenko said the Italian people made him feel welcome when he arrived in 2003 and is now asking them to repeat the gesture for his fellow Ukrainians
The war entered its twelfth day on Monday, with Ukrainian cities hit by fresh bombardments and Zelensky vowing that ‘God will not forgive’ and Ukraine ‘will not forget’ the slaughter of civilians by Russia.
Zelensky, in a late-night address to his countrymen on the Orthodox Christian holiday of ‘Forgiveness Sunday’, recalled how a family of four were among eight civilians killed by Russian mortars while trying to flee the city of Irpin – near Kyiv – earlier in the day. ‘We will not forgive. We will not forget,’ he told listeners.
‘We cannot forgive the hundreds upon hundreds of victims. Nor the thousands upon thousands who have suffered,’ he added. ‘God will not forgive. Not today. Not tomorrow. Never.’
He spoke as Russia claimed it is opening new ‘humanitarian corridors’ out of surrounded cities including Mariupol, Kharkiv, Sumy and Kyiv starting at 7am UK time today in order to allow civilians to evacuate – though few expect Putin’s men to observe the temporary truce after two similar corridors failed at the weekend.
‘Instead of humanitarian corridors, they can only make bloody ones,’ Zelensky said, as Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko added: ‘There can be no “green corridors” because only the sick brain of the Russians decides when to start shooting and at whom.’
Shortly after they spoke, columns of smoke were seen rising over the city of Mykolaiv, on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, as Russian forces resumed shelling.
The exact number of civilian casualties is unclear, though is estimated by Ukraine to be in the thousands as residential areas of major cities are indiscriminately bombed using thermobaric and cluster munitions amid evidence of ‘hit squads’ targeting civilian vehicles. The UN estimates that 1.5million people have fled the fighting.
Ukrainian servicemen help an elderly woman in the town of Irpin, which was heavily shelled by Russia at the weekend
People cross an improvised path under a destroyed bridge while fleeing the town of Irpin, Ukraine
Even as Russia announced a ceasefire starting Monday morning and the opening of humanitarian corridors in several areas, its armed forces continued to pummel Ukrainian cities, with multiple rocket launchers hitting residential buildings.
The limited ceasefire announcement came a day after hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians attempting to flee to safety were forced to shelter from Russian shelling of cities in Ukraine’s center, north and south. Officials from both sides planned a third round of talks Monday.
Russian forces continued their offensive, opening fire on the city of Mykolaiv, 480 kilometers south of the capital of Kyiv, Ukraine’s General Staff said Monday morning. Rescuers said they were putting out fires in residential areas caused by rocket attacks.