On Feb. 23, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized the military invasion of Ukraine after building up hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers on the Ukrainian border for over a year. As of Feb. 23, 2022, Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky declared Ukraine in a state of emergency for 30 days. At the time of this article’s publication on Feb. 25, 2022, Zelensky said in a video address that 137 civilians and military personnel have been killed by Russian forces, with another 300 people wounded.
That same day, 2020 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) Oleksii Novikov of Ukraine took to his Instagram to request financial donations to be used towards supplying Ukrainian soldiers with food, water, medical supplies, and equipment. The post includes a screenshot of a bank account with instructions for properly specifying the purpose of the payment.
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It’s not clear how much money Novikov has raised. However, he’s since updated his post to say the amount of activity his account received was overwhelming; he had to open a new account that could handle larger donations. The money in the original account, he says, has already been sent to doctors.
The Conflict Between Ukraine and Russia
Ukraine is a former Soviet state that gained its independence in 1991 once the USSR collapsed. In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine. Additionally, Russian-backed forces seized control of regions in Donetsk and Luhansk that border Russia. According to ABC News, more than 14,000 people have died in the ongoing conflict in those regions.
With the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022, Zelensky confirmed that Russia carried out missile strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure, with explosions heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, as well as Kharkiv, Odesa, and Mariupol. According to Al Jazeera, it is the most significant attack against a sovereign nation in Europe since World War II.
It is unclear as to why Putin chose to invade Ukraine. In an hour-long address on Feb. 24, 2022, Putin argued the decision to invade Ukraine is a preventive measure against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) further expansion into eastern Europe. Of note, Ukraine is not a member of NATO. Much of Putin’s address included many provable lies, including stating that “leading NATO countries are supporting the far-right nationalists and neo-Nazis in Ukraine,” per a transcript of the speech on Bloomberg.
Novikov is scheduled to compete at the 2022 Arnold Strongman Classic on March 4-5, 2022, in Columbus, OH. As of this writing, he is still on the official roster for that event.