Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin and Russian president Vladimir Putin have been friendly for years, and Russia’s recent attack on Ukraine is now putting an intense spotlight on Ovechkin’s ties to the Russian president. Here’s a quick look at their relationship:
Putin is both a friend and a fan of Ovi’s
Putin has publicly cheered wins by Russia’s national hockey team (which Ovechkin has played for), including the 2014 IIHF World Championship, where he was photographed celebrating with Ovi and the rest of the team in the locker room. After Ovechkin won the Stanley Cup with the Caps in 2018, Putin praised him and the team at a press conference, saying that Ovechkin “and I are good friends…I congratulate him, as well as the whole team he plays with; this is a great achievement for any team in world hockey.”
The hockey star reportedly has Putin’s personal phone number
Not only does the Caps captain have Putin’s digits, but the pair are close enough that Putin sent Ovechkin a wedding present in 2017, according to the Washington Post. Ovechkin’s wife, Nastya Ovechkina, posted a photo of Putin’s gift on her Instagram Stories, including a congratulatory letter from Putin himself: “Have as many happy bright and happy days as possible. Let love and understanding always rule in your home. Be healthy, successful, and all the best.” Ovi and Putin also apparently hang out. During the same press conference where Putin congratulated Ovechkin on winning the Stanley Cup, the president talked about meeting with the hockey star regularly.
Ovi’s Instagram photo is a picture of him and Putin
He’s had the profile picture (taken in 2014) up for some time and has faced backlash from fans for not changing it in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to the New York Times, he was advised to leave it up to avoid stoking anger back in Russia (his family—including his parents, wife, and kids—are currently there).
Ovi launched “Putin Team” movement
In 2017, Ovechkin launched what he called “Putin Team” during the 2018 Russian presidential election. At the time of the launch, he said that the effort isn’t a political statement. In an Instagram post, he shared in Russian that he “never made a secret of my attitude toward our president, always openly supporting him,” the Associated Press reported.
The Kremlin later publicly shared its support of Ovechkin’s efforts, according to USA Today. “We definitely welcome [Ovechkin’s] wish to express his support of our president, especially from abroad,” Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov had said.
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He has previously supported Russian military action
In 2014, Ovechkin posted a photo of himself on Instagram holding a sign apparently in support of Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. The slogan “#SAVE CHILDREN FROM FACISM” was a social media campaign boosted by the Russian government, according to Yahoo News.
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But he does not seem to support the current Ukraine invasion
When asked by a reporter last month about Putin and the current war, Ovechkin responded, “Well he’s my president, but [it’s] how I said, like I’m not in politics, I’m an athlete.” He added that it’s a “sad situation right now for both sides” and he hopes the conflict ends soon with “peace in both countries.” At the same press event, he said, “please, no more war. It doesn’t matter who’s in the war, Russia, Ukraine, different countries. I think we live in a world, we have to live in peace, great world.”