Former professional cyclist Yaroslav Popovych has called for more people to help his native Ukraine in an emotional Instagram video, with the 2006 Tour de France stage winner also willing to fight on the frontline in his home country.
From Drohobych in the west of Ukraine, Popovych rode professionally between 2002 and 2016 and finished third at the 2003 Giro d'Italia. Now a sports director at Trek-Segafredo and living in Italy, he has just arrived home from the UAE Tour.
While there, Popovych claimed he is willing to return to Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion. Despite his hesitation at the current situation his compatriots are facing, Popovych told L'Equipe he doesn't want to hesitate in taking action.
“All I think about is going to my country and taking up arms," he said. "I hesitated a lot in 2014 [when Russia annexed Crimea], when I was still a rider. I told my wife Friday night and she is very upset. Yet I feel it inside of me, I can’t do nothing.
"Yeah, I’m scared of course, but in 2014 people were under bombs every day, even though a lot less people were talking about it, and I didn’t go there. Today, I don’t want to hide anymore.”
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He struggled to sleep while at the UAE Tour, when Russia's invasion of Ukraine had just started, and he has since issued an emotional plea to his followers on Instagram, urging them to help in anyway they can.
"In my life I've always never asked for help," Popovych said. "I help a lot but I don't ask for help. But now I'll do some lists of things we need for the Ukrainian people. If you can help us, it'll be really nice.
"With my wife and friends in Italy we've already arranged a lot of things. For sure we need some food, clothing and some medical stuff. If you can help it we will send it from Florence and again in the days ahead.
"If you want to help the Ukrainian people and especially Ukrainian kids, try to find on the internet in your country the people who can help."
Popovych concluded the Instagram video with the Ukrainian national salute "Slava Ukraine (Glory to Ukraine)." He also expressed his gratitude to people helping in his caption, but suggested more is needed to help defend his country and Europe as a whole.
His caption read: "Thanks to all people who already proposed his help but we need more and more because war is ravaging our country.
"Our soldiers defend not only Ukraine but also Europe."
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