(Reuters) – Former world tennis number one Victoria Azarenka of Belarus has said she is devastated by the suffering of people amid violence in Ukraine after Russia invaded last week.
The invasion has killed more than 2,000 Ukrainian civilians and destroyed hundreds of structures including homes, hospitals, kindergartens and transport facilities, Ukraine’s emergency service said on Wednesday.
“I’m devastated by the actions that have taken place over the last several days against and in Ukraine,” Azarenka said on Twitter.
“It’s heartbreaking to see how many innocent people have been affected and continue to be affected by such violence.”
Belarus is a close ally of Russia and has been a key staging area for Russian forces mounting the invasion, which Russia calls a “special operation”.
“Since my early childhood, I have always seen and experienced Ukrainian and Belarusian people, as well as both nations, friendly and supportive of one another,” the 32-year-old said.
“It is hard to witness the violent separation that is currently taking place instead of supporting and finding compassion for each other.”
Since the start of the invasion, Russian and Belarusian teams and athletes have found themselves frozen out from international competitions across sports.
Tennis authorities this week banned them from competing under the name and flag of their countries.
Two-times Grand Slam champion Azarenka said that she wished for peace.
“My heart is with everyone directly and indirectly impacted by this war that is causing such pain and suffering for so many,” Azarenka said.
“I hope and wish for peace and an end to the war.”
The United Nations has estimated that more than 870,000 people have fled from Ukraine since the invasion was launched a week ago in what looks set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century and displace millions.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Robert Birsel)