I’d join Ukraine war effort if called up – Arsenal’s Zinchenko

Arsenal full back Oleksandr Zinchenko has said he would return to Ukraine to fight in the defence of his country if called up.

The 27-year-old has already donated £1 million ($1.26m) to help those back home following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

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Asked by BBC’s Newsnight whether he would answer a call-up, Zinchenko said: “I think it’s a clear answer. I would go.”

He said several of his former school friends had already joined the Ukrainian military.

“It’s tough to understand that just recently we’ve been in the same school, we were playing in the playground or on the football pitch, and now they have to defend our country,” he said. “Honestly, [it’s] so hard to accept this, but it is what it is. We cannot give up.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy this week signed a bill to cut the mobilisation age for combat duty to 25 from 27.

Zinchenko began his career in Russia with Ufa before joining Manchester City in 2016 where he won four Premier League titles. He moved to Arsenal in July 2022 for a fee in the region of £35 million.

He added that he has little contact with his former Russian teammates.

“Since the invasion really few [have] texted me and sent me some messages and I can’t blame them because this is not their fault,” he said. “I cannot tell them, ‘Guys, do the protests outside and all these things’, because I know they can be [put] in prison.”