Andriy Shevchenko has told Sky Sports News his family have refused to leave the Ukraine amid the Russian invasion and says his country is “united for freedom”.
Shevchenko, one of Ukraine’s most famous sportspeople, was the manager of the country’s national side until last summer and began and ended his playing career in the country’s capital with Dynamo Kyiv.
The 45-year-old has remained in London during the conflict to help lead the appeal to get humanitarian aid to his country, and laid bare the scale of the atrocities he is hearing of through his family.
He said: “I talk to my parents, I talk to my mother and say I want to go back, but my feeling is here now, to talk about what’s going on, the real tragedy the Ukrainian people are facing at the moment.
“My thought is to try to get people to understand the situation, the human side of the situation we are facing. I’ve tried to talk to the foundation, to raise the money, and help the Ukrainian society there.
“I’m so proud to be Ukrainian. It’s a very difficult moment for my country, my people, my family. My mum and sister are in Kyiv at the moment, and terrible things have happened there. People dying, children dying, missiles pointing into our houses.
“We need to stop this war, we need to find a way to stop the war. We have refugees, we need humanitarian aid. We need medical support, food support. It feels like I can do a lot here, and I will do.
“I have tried [to convince my family to leave] many times, I have talked to them, but the answer is no. They want to stay there. This is the Ukrainian spirit.”
Shevchenko said football had lost all importance to him given his country’s situation but fully backed the decision to suspend Russia from international games indefinitely and Russian sides’ expulsion from European competition this season as well.
However, he added the world should go further, given Russian athletes will – albeit not under their country’s banner – still be able to participate in the Paralympic Winter Games, which begin later this week.
He said: “It’s a great reaction from the institutions like UEFA and FIFA to make the right decision.
“I don’t think it’s a difficult decision. When you attack a country, when you start to send in bombs and soldiers; it’s not a conflict, it’s a real war.
“When the war has not stopped, I think it’s the right decision not to allow any Russian athletes to participate in any sporting event.
“Football doesn’t exist for me any more. I don’t think about it. It’s not the time for that. I’m not watching anything, any sport, anything.
“All my concentration, when I wake up, I think about how I can help my country, what I can do. I’ve started to call my parents, my friends, get updates on what’s going on in Ukraine.
“For me, this is my field, this is my concentration now.”
Wladimir Klitschko has urged other countries to provide Ukraine with supplies and financial support following the Russian invasion, with the former world heavyweight boxing champion fearing the attack could extend to other nations.
Speaking to Sky Sports News’ Rob Dorsett, Klitschko – who has taken up arms – praised the Western world for “standing for and with” Ukraine but says further assistance is imperative.
“To come to our home and kill our men, women and children, this is not human, what any human can do,” said Klitschko, 45.
“We need supplies, we need food, we need medicine. We need any support, financial support, as we are alone in this case.
“But, in a way, we are all together. The democratic Western world stands for us and with us. This war, if it is not going to stop in Ukraine, it is going to spread out.
“If any of you are thinking, ‘it’s in Ukraine, I don’t really care’, you should. Don’t underestimate it, we should take care of it promptly.
“To in any way stop this Russian aggression is crucial. We don’t have time to hesitate, it needs to be promptly done.
“It is just unimaginable what is happening in this beautiful country to these beautiful people.”
If you want to support the aid effort in Ukraine please donate via the WithUkraine Global Support Fund at: www.withukraine.org