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Hockey star Alex Ovechkin takes Putin’s side in the Ukraine war

Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

Tuesday afternoon, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and international hockey star took a stand on the Ukraine crisis. Or, he posted a message about it on Instagram, anyway.

ovechkin ukraine instagram

(Alex Ovechkin/Instagram)

The hashtag #SaveChildrenFromFascism appears to be a pro-Kremlin line on the Ukraine crisis. It pops up on a bunch of anti-Ukrainian Instagram photos, often paired with #SaveDonbassFromTheUkrainianArmy. That one refers to Donbass, a region of eastern Ukraine that Russia is currently invading.

Ovie, as he's called, paired the hashtag with a Russian message — "Наши Дедушки и Бабушки видели все ужасы фашизма!Мы не допустим его в наше время!!" That translates, roughly, as "Our grandfathers and grandmothers saw the horrors of fascism; we will not permit in our time!!" (Thanks to Kiley Kroh and many others for the translation).

So it's safe to say that Ovie thinks the Ukrainian government are fascists, and that Putin is saving the children from them. This is the Russian government line and a common view within Russia itself, where Russian media has been hammering it endlessly, creating a parallel universe reality in which Ukrainians are crying out to be liberated by Putin.

Ovie, who is Russian, played for the Russian national team at the IHF Hockey World Championship, and partied with Putin after the team won.

This isn't just an isolated sports celebrity. Roughly 68 percent of Russians back Putin, and even some of his opponents support his Ukraine policy. Ovie's sentiments are in line with Russian popular opinion generally (though there is certainly dissent against it), and it's possible that part of Putin's motivation in the Ukraine invasion is shoring up his domestic support. James Fearon, an expert on war at Stanford University, thinks that part of the reason Putin is invading is that he's paranoid about revolutions — like the one Ukraine had in 2004 and again in late 2013. .

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