This year’s Ukraine’s Independence Day marks exactly six months since Russia invaded and started a bloody war that continues to rage across the country.
“The flag will no longer be raised and the anthem will no longer be played in honor of the sporting victories of the deceased athletes,” wrote Minister of Youth and Sports Vadym Gutzait.
“Russia invaded Ukraine and took their lives. 133 athletes and coaches died on the battlefield and from enemy fire.”
CNN is unable to independently confirm the number of deaths of Ukrainian athletes and coaches.
Archer Dmytro Sydoruk “died defending Ukraine”. After being injured in 2014, Sydoruk represented Ukraine in the first-ever Invictus Games – an event for wounded soldiers founded by Prince Harry – in 2017 and won a silver medal in archery.
At the time of his death, he was the coach of the national Invictus and Warrior Games, as well as the coordinator of the Invictus team in Lviv.
“He always tried to help all veterans who united in sports,” the Sports Committee of Ukraine said in a tribute.
“He passed his skills on to kids in training, valued teamwork and a veteran sporting environment.”
Ivan Bidnyak – a former silver medalist at the European Shooting Championships – was also killed at the age of 36 while fighting in the Kherson region. He represented Ukraine at the World Championships and was the first Ukrainian to compete in shooting at the London 2012 Olympics.
The devastating, protracted conflict has claimed the lives of many civilians and combatants. On August 22, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded 5,587 civilian deaths in Ukraine, but notes that the actual number may be significantly higher.
Eleven-year-old gymnast Kateryna Diachenko was reportedly killed along with her father, mother and brother on March 10 when a shell hit her home in Mariupol.
“Show a sign of defiance”
The announcement by Ukraine’s Ministry of Youth and Sport comes a day after Ukraine’s Premier League restarted as the country tries to find a sense of normal life.
But even these football matches will be anything but normal as players will rush to bomb shelters in case of air raid. Military officials will be present instead of fans, and if the air raid sirens continue for more than an hour, they and the on-ice officials will decide whether play will continue.
“We heard a siren before the game yesterday morning,” FC Shakhtar Donetsk football director Darijo Srna told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies after his side started the tournament with a 0-0 draw at Metalist 1925 Kharkiv.
“We were staying at the hotel, we were about to go to the stadium. When we were there we just prayed that we wouldn’t hear a siren for 90 minutes or we’d have to duck and wait for the siren to go off.
“It wasn’t a good result but our fans are so happy and the Ukrainians are so happy because we’re starting to do something we love and that’s playing football.”
The somber anniversary also comes as current UPL champions Dynamo Kyiv had hoped to reach the Champions League but were defeated 5-0 on aggregate by Benfica in the last qualifying round.
Due to the logistical impossibility of holding a game in Kyiv, Dynamo played their home game in Lodz, Poland.
CNN’s Ben Morse contributed to this story.