Entertainment, Sports

Teenager Iulian Boiko would fight at home in Ukraine if he was old enough

Ukrainian teenager Iulian Boiko said he would swap his snooker cue for a gun and join the fight against Russia in his homeland if he was old enough.

Boiko, 16, who reached the second round of the Welsh Open in Newport this week, spoke with a deep sense of pride about his country’s sports stars who have taken up arms.

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Boiko’s home city Kyiv, his brother Wladimir, and current world boxing champions Vasiliy Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk are among those who have joined the fight.

Boiko told the PA news agency: “I’m really proud of all the soldiers, all of the Ukrainian army, including Usyk and top boxers, including football players, and players from all sports.

“All of the professional sportsmen, most of them are fighting now for our country. It’s impossible not to be proud because they are amazing.

“If I was a bit older I would do they same. The only way to destroy the enemy is for everyone to unite and stand as one.”

Boiko, based at the Victoria Snooker Academy in Sheffield, had watched his home city come under attack from Russian troops on television before fighting back to beat Liam Davies 4-3 earlier this week in the first round at the Welsh Open.

He said: “I tried my best. When I was 3-0 down my game was not to the standard that I’m used to. I was not playing very well.

“But I was just thinking of all the people who are now trying to protect our nation. I tried to fight and give my best and fortunately I came out as a winner in the end.”

Boiko, whose mother and father have been reunited in Poland after fleeing Ukraine, said he had been happier with his performance in a 4-0 second-round defeat to world number 11 Mark Allen.

But he said it had been tough to retain his focus while Kyiv was under attack.

“That’s very difficult,” he said. “You get mixed feelings. You’re angry, you’re upset because you wish you could change something and do something against it.

“But for me the only way to cheer people up a little bit is just to continue playing and doing what I do best.

“I’m trying to work as hard as I can to focus, as much as is possible during these times, on snooker.”

Boiko will head for Antalya later this week for the Turkish Masters where he will play Simon Blackwell. The Ukrainian had been scheduled to face Neil Robertson in the opening round, but the world number four has pulled out.

“I have a few friends who are in the heated zones of the war, so yeah it’s really tough. I just hope everyone is safe,” he said.

“Everyone is involved in some ways. I think everyone in Ukraine is just trying to help each other.

“Not all the people can deal with guns and with the war and fighting, but there is still a lot of help from regular people involved in this.”

Boiko insisted Ukraine remained “fearless” in their fight against Russian invaders and had a message for their country’s president, Vladimir Putin.

“If you look at the history, all of the dictators, they end up in the same way, so I don’t think he has a long time to live,” he added.

“But in his time left, if he would stop and let there be peace in the whole world, it would be the best solution for him.

“Our whole nation is focused against one opponent, against Russian soldiers, the Russian army and against Putin. I think Putin has lost his mind completely.”

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