Ukrainian tennis star joins fight against Russia, says Putin wants to 'rip country from history books'

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Ukrainian tennis star enlists in military amid Russian invasion

Sergiy Stakhovsky, a Ukrainian tennis pro, discusses his difficult decision to put his career on hold to defend his country. He said he won’t allow Ukraine to be ‘ripped out of history books’ by Russia.

A Ukrainian tennis star made a difficult decision to put his career on hold to defend his country amid Russia’s invasion.

“Putin’s goal and Putin’s vision is that Ukraine never existed. And that the country was created by Lenin and Stalin, God knows who, in his mind. If Ukraine loses this battle and loses this war, most likely, it will be ripped out of the history books. And that’s something I would not like to have,” Sergiy Stakhovsky told Trace Gallagher during live Fox News coverage Thursday morning.

The 36-year-old with no military experience won four ATP titles in his career and was ranked as high as 31st in the world in 2010. 

The U.N. human rights office says 227 civilians have been killed and another 525 injured in its latest count of the toll in Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s military invasion that began a week ago.

The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says the tally eclipses the entire civilian casualty count from the war in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces in 2014 — which left 136 dead and 577 injured.

The U.N. Rights office admits the figures so far are a vast undercount.

However, Ukraine citizens are stepping up to fight, Stakhovsky said. Although Ukraine needs as much defense support as possible, the tennis star said his decision to join the fight will be hard for his family to understand. 

ILKLEY, ENGLAND – JUNE 24: Sergiy Stakhovsky of the Ukraine speaks to crowd after winning the final against Oscar Otte of Germany on day Eight of the Fuzion 100 Ikley Trophy at Ilkley Lawn Tennis & Squash Club on June 24, 2018 in Ilkley, United Kingdom. (Photo by Barrington Coombs/Getty Images for LTA)
(Photo by Barrington Coombs/Getty Images for LTA)

“It’s not a winning decision. It’s not a right one. All of them are wrong. I hope my wife understood it but I just now hope that I will have a chance to have forgiveness in person and not on the phone,” Stakhovsky said.

Stakhovsky said Ukraine has been at war with Russia for eight years since Moscow annexed Crimea and “disturbed” the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the country’s east.

“Ukraine knew and saw in their own eyes what the Russia world brings to the table and that’s nothing Ukrainian people want to have. Ukrainians want the possibility to travel to Europe without a visa. They want to see the world. They want to experience better things and that’s why every single individual inside Ukraine, they don’t want the Russian world inside Ukraine,” he said.

“And that’s why they’re willing to fight.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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