Manchester City star Oleksandr Zinchenko has expressed his anger at former team-mates in Russia who are reluctant to speak out against their country’s atrocities in Ukraine.
Defender Zinchenko, 25, played for the Russian club Ufa for a season-and-a-half before he signed for City in the summer of 2016.
But he feels let down by friends over there who haven’t condemned Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of his homeland.
Manchester City’s Ukrainian defender Oleksandr Zinchenko has hit out at former team-mates at Russian club Ufa who have refused to speak out about the war in his homeland
Manchester City fans have offered their support to Zinchenko amid the bloody conflict
Russia’s invasion has brought death and destruction to Zinchenko’s Ukrainian homeland
‘I have friends over there, a small circle, but now it has reduced almost to nothing,’ Zinchenko told The Guardian.
‘I’m so disappointed. The guys I know called me as soon as the invasion happened, texting me: “I’m so sorry, Alex, but we can’t do anything.”
‘Of course you can. If you stay silent it means you support what is happening in Ukraine right now, and I can’t see why they would.
‘Maybe they are scared, because we see pictures on social media of Russians being taken to prison if they protest.
‘But look at footballers in particular, or anyone with a massive audience.
‘Can you believe that, if all of them posted something on Instagram at the same time saying: “Guys, we are against the war, we need to stop it,” they would all be arrested?
‘Of course they would not. And it’s such a shame that they say nothing.’
Zinchenko described Russian president Vladimir Putin as a ‘creature’ and wished him ‘a most painful suffering death’ in an Instagram post shortly after the invasion began
The Ukraine international has regularly spoken out about the horrors unfolding back home
Zinchenko hails from the town of Radomyshl, a two hour drive west of the capital Kyiv, and says he heard stories of Russian troops ‘hiding in the woods, trying to find civilians in their cars, kill them and take everything they had.’
Russian forces have now withdrawn from the region around Kyiv having failed in their objective to take the capital and depose the government led by Volodymyr Zelensky.
The invading military are now focused on the eastern Donbas regions, attempting to ‘liberate’ the Donetsk and Luhansk territories where Russian-backed separatists held some control before the invasion in late February.
But fresh horrors of civilian suffering are being discovered on a daily basis as Russian forces withdraw.
The police chief of the Kyiv region said on Friday that the bodies of 900 civilians have been found in towns around the capital, including 350 in Bucha.
The United Nations estimates that five million Ukrainians have been forced from their homes during the conflict.
Bodies are exhumed from mass graves in the town of Bucha following the Russian withdrawal
The debris of armoured vehicles in Bucha after Russia withdrew to the east of the country
Zinchenko said: ‘It’s a nightmare. A shock to the whole world, the things they have done. Terrible, scary things.
‘They killed our civilians. They killed our children. They raped our women and girls. They killed our dogs and even ate them. I cannot even begin to describe how I feel about them.
‘I hate them so much, for everything they have done to the Ukrainian people and Ukraine. And I hate the people in Russia who are trying to convince others that this is propaganda. It’s embarrassing. How can they say this?
‘People sent me pictures, the real facts. The bodies of our dead civilians were lying on the ground for two weeks. They have to take responsibility for this.’
Zinchenko admitted it has been difficult to concentrate on football amid the crisis back home
Zinchenko uploaded an Instagram picture of Putin shortly after the invasion started, writing: ‘I hope you die the most painful suffering death, creature.’
He admitted it has been very difficult to concentrate on football matters, with City chasing a Treble of Premier League title, FA Cup and Champions League this season.
They play Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday afternoon.