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133 athletes and coaches have died during the war in Ukraine, as the country marks six months of conflict

<i>Gleb Garanich/Reuters</i><br/>133 athletes and coaches have died during the war in Ukraine
Gleb Garanich/Reuters
133 athletes and coaches have died during the war in Ukraine

By Kevin Dotson, Sammy Mngqosini and Issy Ronald, CNN

Thirty-one years ago, the Ukrainian Declaration of Independence from the Soviet Union was issued, an occasion traditionally marked with celebrations and military parades in the streets of Kyiv.

Ukraine’s Independence Day this year marks six months exactly since Russia invaded and began a bloody war which continues to rage across the country.

Among those who have been killed are 133 Ukrainian athletes and coaches, the Ukraine Ministry of Youth and Sports announced on Tuesday.

“The flag will no longer be raised and the anthem will no longer be played in honor of the sports victories of the deceased athletes,” Minister of Youth and Sports Vadym Gutzait wrote.

“Russia invaded Ukraine and took their lives. 133 athletes and coaches have died on the battlefield and from enemy shelling.”

CNN is not able to independently confirm the number of deaths of Ukrainian athletes and coaches.

The website ‘Sports Angels’ details the lives of each sportsperson killed during the war — some on combat missions, some in their homes destroyed by shelling.

Archer Dmytro Sydoruk “died defending Ukraine.” After he was injured in 2014, Sydoruk represented Ukraine at the first ever Invictus Games — an event for wounded soldiers founded by Prince Harry — in 2017 and won a silver medal in archery.

He was the coach of the national Invictus and Warrior Games, as well as a coordinator of the Invictus team in Lviv at the time of his death.

“He always tried to help all veterans who united around sports,” Ukraine’s Sports Committee said in a tribute.

“He passed on his skills to children in training, highly valued teamwork and veteran sports environment.”

Ivan Bidnyak — a former silver medalist at the European Shooting Championship — was also killed while fighting in the Kherson region at the age of 36. 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 as well as combatants. As of August 22, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded 5,587 civilian deaths in Ukraine, though it notes that the actual figures are expected to be considerably higher.

Eleven-year-old gymnast Kateryna Diachenko was reportedly killed when a shell hit her house in Mariupol on March 10 along with her father, mother and brother.

“Rest in peace, Katya! The young, beautiful gymnast from Mariupol left this world way too soon. She’s one of many victims of a senseless war. Thoughts of the entire RG family are with the family,” the official account of Swiss Rhythmic Gymnastics said on Instagram.

‘Showing a sign of defiance’

The announcement from the Ukraine Ministry of Youth and Sports comes a day after the Ukrainian Premier League restarted as the country attempts to find some sense of normal life.

But even these football matches will be far from normal with players set to rush to bomb shelters in case of air raids. Military officials rather than fans will be in attendance and, if air raid sirens continue for longer than an hour, they and the match officials will decide if play should continue.

“We heard one siren yesterday morning before the game,” Darijo Srna, FC Shakhtar Donetsk’s director of football, told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies after his side kicked off the tournament with a 0-0 draw against Metalist 1925 Kharkiv.

“We were in the hotel, we were just starting to drive to the stadium. When we were there, we were just praying that we wouldn’t hear a siren for 90 minutes, otherwise we must go underground waiting for the siren to go off.

“It wasn’t a good result, but our fans are so happy and Ukrainian people are so happy because we are starting to do something we love and that is playing football.”

The somber anniversary also comes as the current champion of the UPL, Dynamo Kyiv, had hoped to reach the Champions League but was defeated 5-0 on aggregate by Benfica in the last round of qualifying.

Dynamo played its home leg in Lodz, Poland due to the logistical impossibilities of holding a match in Kyiv.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Ben Morse contributed to this story.

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