CSKA Moscow striker Ilya Shkurin has made a stand against the disputed Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, saying he will refuse to play for his country until he steps down from power.
Lukashenko, who has been in power in Belarus for 26 years, has sparked week-long street protests over a disputed election result that protesters say was rigged in his favor. He has also rejected calls for the election to be re-run, referencing official results that gave him around 80% of the vote.
CSKA striker Shkurin has made a protest of his own, stating he will not represent Belarus on the international stage until Lukashenko steps down or is ousted.
“I refuse to represent the interests of the selection as long as the Lukashenko regime is in power. Long live Belarus!” Shkurin wrote on Instagram.
The striker, who turns 21 on Monday, was named in the Belarus squad for the team’s UEFA Nations League matches in September. Belarus are scheduled to face Albania at home on Sept. 4, and travel to Kazakhstan for an away fixture on Sept. 7.
Shkurin topped the Belarusian league’s scoring charts last year with 19 goals, and then signed a four-and-a-half-year deal with Russian side CSKA in January.
CSKA’s Belarusian coach Viktor Goncharenko also made his views clear as he criticized the government for the police violence used against peaceful protesters following the election.
“I think this is unacceptable,” said Goncharenko.
“I strongly opposed the beating of our peaceful, wonderful Belarusian people. The police, riot police and the army should protect the people, not beat them.”
The unrest has led to Belarusian league matches being postponed for an unspecified time.