“Does it really help to improve situation for the peace?’ – Diatchenko recalls ordeal after being refused to board flight due to Russian passport

The former world No 71, was forced to withdraw from a tournament in France due to the airline’s decision

Vitalia Diatchenko at the 2022 WTA Lyon Open Vitalia Diatchenko at the 2022 WTA Lyon Open Image Credit: Sandrine Thesillat / Panoramic

Russian tennis player Vitalia Diatchenko recalled her harrowing experience while travelling to play a tournament in Corsica, France due to her nationality.

The former world No 71, who is now ranked 250th, was refused permission to board a flight due to her Russian nationality and the ongoing war with Ukraine.

In her post, the 32-year-old said she had support letters from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the WTA Tour as well as her father who is a diplomat working with the United Nations, but she was still refused permission to board the flight of Lot Airlines.

“I was refused to fly to a tournament in Corsica by Lott airlines, from Cairo-Warsaw-Nice, because I am the owner of Russian passport. Airlines rules – suddenly do not allow any Russian to fly with Lott airlines!!’ she said in a message posted on social media. “Does it really help to improve situation for the peace???. I had all the support letters from WTA, ITF but in modern tennis this doesn’t seem to make any difference in reality. I had support letters from my father, who is originally born in Ukraine and working for United Nations. This letter stating that I am his daughter (airline policy allows family members of people who have diplomatic passport to fly) but all airlines suddenly now refuse these documents because of your country of birth.”

“Is this fair to athletes that have no association with any part of the unfortunate situation?” – Diatchenko

Diatchenko said she was forced to spend several hours at the Cairo airport without food or accommodation, which ultimately led her to withdraw from the tournament.

“I have to withdraw and the only option is return home and miss another event because of this situation,” she wrote. “As a professional athlete who is playing without any flag and not representing any country, just trying to get on with life and follow a career that I have loved all my life, is this fair to athletes that have no association with any part of the unfortunate situation? Hope to be free of politics, racism and nazism. Just peace and clear sky please!!!”

In an email statement to Reuters, the Polish airline Lot confirmed that they did not allow Diatchenko to board the flight due to restrictions introduced by Poland’s interior ministry during the COVID-19 pandemic and updated in 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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