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Ukraine-Russia crisis

West Ham's Yarmolenko says he 'couldn't even talk' after Russia's invasion of Ukraine & was going 'crazy' while on compassionate leave

14:25 GMT+3 23/03/2022
Yarmolenko West Ham 2022
The winger has endured an emotionally draining period on and off the pitch amid his country's military conflict with Russia

West Ham's Andriy Yarmolenko has revealed that he "couldn't even talk" after Russia's invasion of Ukraine and went "crazy" while on compassionate leave.

Yarmolenko, who has won over 100 caps for Ukraine at international level, was granted time off by West Ham after Russian troops began occupying regions of his homeland in February.

The 32-year-old's wife and children were in Ukraine at the start of the conflict but have since returned to England after fleeing via Poland, while the Hammers have welcomed a popular figure back into the fold quicker than expected.

What's been said?

David Moyes confirmed Yarmolenko's return for a clash with Aston Villa on March 13, and he marked the occasion by scoring, sparking emotional scenes at the London Stadium.

The winger was mobbed by his team-mates after finding the net again in a subsequent Europa League clash with Sevilla, and he says his club commitments have come as a welcome distraction from the events in Ukraine.

Yarmolenko struggled mentally during his brief time away from West Ham, as he said on Ukrainian YouTube channel Football 1/2/3: "David Moyes told me I could choose to train or not and that I had to do everything I could to ensure the safety of my family.

"I needed to remain professional so I returned. I was just going crazy and you need to be distracted. But even now, I don’t know what the other results are. It is just training ends and then the phone calls home.

"It is honestly scary to talk about it. We have to help each other. If we do not then no one will.

"I am sure we will not be beaten by any country. No one will ever be able to break our spirit."

Yarmolenko's initial reaction to the invasion

Yarmolenko went on to reveal that he was consumed by guilt and worry that left him unable to focus in training after seeing his family's arrival in Ukraine coincide with the start of Russia's invasion.

"When it all started, on February 24, I arrived at training and couldn’t even talk," he said. "I had tears flowing. I asked the coach to let me go home.

"I didn’t believe this could happen. I sent my family to Kyiv because my child had to have a doctor’s appointment.

"Can you imagine what I was like when it started the next morning? I just wanted to run and hit my head against a wall. What a fool I was sending my family to Kyiv and I am sitting in London."

The West Ham star added on how the rest of his family are coping amid the war in Ukraine: "All the relatives are alive and well. My cousins help keep in touch with uncles, aunts.

"The ones there, where there is constant shelling going on, they are in bomb shelters, hiding in basements."

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