World

The Ukrainian foreign minister has expressed his support for a tennis player who was booed off the court at the French Open for refusing to shake hands with her Belarusian opponent.

Marta Kostyuk was jeered by the crowd at the end of the first round match as she snubbed Aryna Sabalenka, whose country has supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter: “Those who booed need to visit Bucha, where the Russian army came from Belarus and massacred civilians. Or run to a shelter when a Russian jet takes off in Belarus. Then, boo.”

Kostyuk, ranked 39th in the world, has repeatedly criticised players from Russia or Belarus who she said had not been sufficiently vocal in speaking out against the war.

After the Paris incident on Sunday, she said the fans who booed her off court should “be honestly embarrassed”.

She added: “I want to see people react to it in 10 years when the war is over. I think they will not feel really nice about what they did.”

World number two Sabalenka, who won 6-3 6-2 to advance to the second round, said she was not surprised by the snub – adding her opponent did not deserve the jeers.

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“I understand why they’re not shaking hands with us,” Sabalenka said, who is currently playing under a neutral white flag.

“I can imagine if they shake hands with us, what’s going to happen to them from the Ukrainian side.

“I understand that this isn’t personal. I think she didn’t deserve to leave the court that way.”

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Speaking in the post-match news conference, Sabalenka added: “I said it many, many times: nobody in this world, Russian athletes or Belarusian athletes, supports the war. Nobody. How can we support the war?”

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But Kostyuk, speaking in her own news conference a short while later, said she had no respect for Sabalenka.

“Someone like Aryna, who is travelling the world, she has a big platform of people who support her. I speak out about things and I see, like, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, BBC.

“There are so many platforms that millions, billions of people in the world read. And just to reject her responsibility of having an opinion on the most important things in the world, I cannot respect it.”

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