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Flames' Russian defenceman Nikita Zadorov speaks out against Putin, war in Ukraine

Calgary Flames defenceman Nikita Zadorov has spoken out against Russia's invasion of Ukraine and says he and other Russian NHL players couldn't come to an agreement on what to say about it.

Zadorov told reporters Friday in Calgary that he can't return to Russia as long as Vladimir Putin is president and that his parents in Russia don't share his views.

"I think it's important for me to speak personally," Zadorov said. "I think hopefully I can change something in this world.

"It just sucks what's going on over there right now. I think it's just important to be vocal."

The defenceman said in Russian in a YouTube interview with English subtitles posted this week that NHL players from his country communicated in a group digital chat after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, and couldn't agree on what to say.

Zadorov told interviewer Yury Dod that Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky started the discussion that ended without a united message.

"We had a group chat. It went two different directions," Zadorov said Friday in Calgary. "Some guys were against, some guys for. 

"I'm not going to bring names because we're playing in the same league and I don't think it's a right way to do, but there's a lot of young kids thinking the way I think. 

"They just don't have a voice to speak out like this, but now hopefully they can feel the support from me."

The 28-year-old Zadorov is from Moscow, but makes his off-season home in Miami where the interview with Dod was conducted. 

The Flames selected the six-foot-six, 248-pound defender him in the first round (16th overall) in the 2013 NHL draft.

Within days of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Zadorov posted "No War" on his Instagram account.

He told Dod: "I believe that the last 23 years in our country with this president, and nine years before him, I hope this all comes to an end. I hope that Russia becomes a democratic country with a strong economy. Not a kleptocracy.

"All our industries went back in time because of this war, hockey, economics, culture. I'm sorry for the young guys. Instead of raising the new generation, we sent them to die."

Zadorov said he's received international feedback since the YouTube interview was posted.

"The past two days I got a lot of DMs, a lot of messages, from Russian people, Ukrainian people, a lot from Czech Republic now, Finland, Sweden, all over Europe," he said in Calgary.

"In my Instagram, 99 per cent of my messages are positive. I know Russia has a bot system and it takes them two, three days to send some negative reviews so I'm expecting them to come to my page too." 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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