Ukrainian NBA players Mykhailiuk and Len ‘condemn the war’ as crisis unfolds

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Alex Len, the two current NBA players who are from Ukraine, issued a joint statement on Thursday “categorically condemning the war” in their home country, as Russian forces carried out a large-scale invasion by ground, air and sea.

“A great tragedy befell our dear homeland Ukraine. We categorically condemn the war. Ukraine is a peaceful, sovereign state inhabited by people who want to decide their own destiny,” read a statement released by both players on Twitter.

“We pray for our families, friends, relatives and all the people who are in the territory of Ukraine. We hope for an end to this terrible war as soon as possible. Dear fellow Ukranians, hold on! Our strength is in unity! We are with you!”

Mykhailiuk, a Toronto Raptors forward, calls the central Ukrainian city of Cherkasy home.

Len, a Sacramento Kings center, hails from the city of Antratsit in the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, one of the most heavily hit areas of the recent conflict.

Prior to Thursday night’s game between the Kings and Denver Nuggets, players from both teams locked arms for a moment of silence in solidarity with Len.

The situation in Ukraine is dire, with the country’s government saying today it faced a “full-scale attack from multiple directions.” Throughout the day, shelling and missile strikes were reported across the country.

The invasion began before the break of dawn on Thursday, after Russian president Vladimir Putin declared the start of a “special military operation” in Ukraine, signaling the beginning of a conflict many had feared would arrive for weeks.

Shortly after the speech ended, large explosions were seen near Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine, and reports surfaced of blasts in the country’s capital, Kyiv.

World leaders resoundingly denounced Russia’s invasion, including Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, who called the crisis “a massive threat to security and peace around the world,” while announcing a slew of sanctions against Russia.

“These are deeply disturbing times for the international community and for people everywhere who care about freedom and democracy,” Trudeau said. “Canada is unequivocal in our condemnation of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on the sovereign, democratic state of Ukraine.”

The economic measures, which were done in unison with other G7 countries, were aimed at hobbling Russia’s economy amidst its unprovoked military action, which stems from its belief that Ukraine is within boundaries of influence, and a wariness over the country’s closeness to Western nations and the possibility of it joining NATO or the European Union. Ukraine is part of neither.

By nightfall in Ukraine on Thursday, as Russian troops drew closer to Kyiv, thousands of Ukrainians had fled — and were fleeing — cities and Russian civilians protested their country’s decision to go to war.

It is not known with any certainty how many casualties there have been as a result of the conflict so far, though at least 40 Ukrainian soldiers were killed, according to officials.

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