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Two Ukrainian sportsmen killed in Russian invasion



Oleksi Tsibko, Ukraine former rugby captain killed

Ukraine’s former rugby and water polo captains Oleksi Tsibko and Yevhen Obedinsky have been killed during Russia’s ongoing invasion of the country.

Tsibko reportedly died fighting Russian forces close to the town of Bucha on March 31.

The 55-year-old’s death has been confirmed this week by the Ukrainian Rugby Federation.

Tsibko had captained the Ukrainian national team, before serving as the Ukrainian Rugby Federation President from 2003 to 2005.

He later served as the Mayor of Smela between 2015 and 2018.

Tsibko was buried at the Baykove cemetery in Kyiv.


Rugby Europe President and International Olympic Committee member Octavian Morariu was among those to pay tribute to Tsibko.

“Even though I hoped that this news won’t be confirmed, unfortunately, I can now sadly say that Oleksi Tsibko, former captain of the Ukrainian national team, former President of the Ukrainian Rugby Union and also Mayor of Smela City died defending his town and his country,” Morariu wrote.

“May he rest in peace and be always remembered.”

World Rugby President Sir Bill Beaumont tweeted: “On @UN #SportsDay, our thoughts are with the Ukraine rugby family who are facing such incredible challenges at present.

“We also remember those who have been victims of the recent violence, including the former union President Oleksii Tsibko.


“We stand with Ukraine in condemning this needless violence and will continue to offer solidarity and friendship.”

Russian forces withdrew from Bucha on March 31, with the dead bodies of civilians having been pictured.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described the evidence from the town as “genocide”, with the town’s Mayor reporting that more than 300 people have been found dead.

Satellite images on March 10 showed a mass grave had been dug outside a church.

Russia has claimed, without evidence, the massacre has been staged by Ukraine.


Obedinsky, Ukraine’s former water polo captain, has also been killed in fighting.

Obedinsky’s death was reported by his father Oleksandr Obedinsky, who previously served as a national team coach.

The 39-year-old was reportedly killed on March 17 in the Russian siege of Mariupol.

His 12-year-old daughter has been taken to the Russian occupied city of Donestsk, with a campaign having begun to reunite her with her grandfather.

Russia and Belarus – which is providing military assistance to the invasion – have been largely exiled from international sport since the war began.


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recommended International Federations ban Russian athletes, as well as Belarusian competitors, from all international competitions.

The IOC also urged world governing bodies and event organisers to move all competitions from Belarus and Russia.

However, it has not suspended either National Olympic Committee or taken any action against Russian IOC members.



Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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