Arsenal footballer Oleksandr Zinchenko, 27, told the BBC’s Newsnight that he was prepared to give up his career to fight for Ukraine if he was called up.

On Wednesday, a bill was signed into law by President Volodymyr Zelensky that lowered the age of military mobilization from 27 to 25, which would allow the country to call up Ukrainians to replenish its reserves and bolster its front line.

The player has donated about £1 million ($1.26 million) and was one of the organizers of the August 2023 “Game4Ukraine” charity football match along with the Ukrainian footballing icon Andriy Shevchenko. The match, which was played at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge raised money for Zelensky’s United24 initiative, intended to raise funds for rebuilding facilities and infrastructure that suffered damage from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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Ukraine is now Europe’s “shield” and needs more support.

Asked if he thought he could make a greater contribution to the war effort by representing Ukraine as both an international player as well as for one of England’s leading Premier League or would he answer a call-up to fight Zinchenko said, “I think it's a clear answer. I would go [to fight].”

Zinchenko said Ukraine is now Europe’s “shield” and needs more support. He added that he had former school friends fighting on the frontline and it was tough for him to know that not long ago he had been playing football with his school mates and now they were fighting to defend their country.

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Kyiv has been battling a Russian land assault on its northeastern Kharkiv region since May 10, when thousands of troops stormed the border, making their biggest territorial advances in 18 months.

Zinchenko said the situation in the country was “super tough.” He said “Honestly, [it's] so hard to accept this, but it is what it is. We cannot give up.” He said that he and his family remained proud of his countrymen and “proud of our president.”

“I know maybe some people might think that it's much easier … for me being here [in London] rather than being there [in Ukraine]. I really hope that this war will end soon," he said.

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We will never forget what they have done to us, to our people.

Zinchenko, who has won 60 caps for Ukraine and is an undoubted starter in this summers’ European Championships in Germany, began his professional football career with Russian team FC Ufa in 2016, but said he no longer had contact with his Russian friends and former teammates.

“Since the invasion really few [have] texted me, but I stopped any communication since February 2022. They sent me some messages and I can't blame them because this is not their fault,” he said.

He went on that he could not tell them to protest the war because it would be too dangerous for them.

“But I have a question for the people of Russia - how do you live in the country where you don't have a freedom of speech at all?”

He said Russians and Ukrainians used to call each other their “brothers” and “sisters” but the invasion has shown everyone that Ukrainians can't be their friends anymore.

“We will never forget what they [Russian] have done to us, to our people,” he said. “And that's what I will teach my kids as well. And my kids will teach their kids. This is not acceptable.”

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