Russia’s world famous hockey player Alexander Ovechkin has explained his decision to set up a pro-Putin movement abroad in an interview with The New York Times.
The Washington Capitals captain said that the idea to create a “civic movement” he has called “#putinteam,” was entirely his own and addresses people who support Russia.
“Putin team is Putin Team. It is just for people who support the country, and basically it’s a simple thing,” Ovechkin emphasized in his first extended interview on the subject.
“It’s all about the country. I just want to do my best for my country,” he added.
In the interview, Ovechkin, known as “Ovi” in Washington, said that just like many other players, he was not interested in politics.
“We’re not that smart,” he said. “We just stay away from that and just do our job,” he noted.
Alexander Ovechkin unveiled his Putin Team project in early November.
“I have never made a secret of my attitude towards our President and have always supported him. I’m sure that there are many people who also support him, Ovechkin then wrote on his Instagram post.
He called on all of Putin’s supporters to “come together and show the world a strong and united Russia.”
A number of leading athletes, including fellow pucksters Yevgeny Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, chess grandmaster Sergei Karyakin and the entire Russian eurhythmics team, have already joined Putin Team.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow welcomed Ovechkin’s Putin Team initiative.
In the US, a Department of State spokesman said that the United States “adheres to the principles of free speech and free thought.”
Alexander Ovechkin was the first overall pick in the 2004 National Hockey league (NHL) draft and has since played for the Washington Capitals.
The sole exception is Ovechkin’s short stint in his first club — Dynamo Moscow during the 2012-13 NHL lockout.
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He holds a number of NHL and club records and is a three-time World Hockey Champion.