Vitaly Merinov, a four-time world kickboxing champion, died last week in hospital as a result of leg injuries sustained while fighting for the Ukrainian armed forces in Luhansk. The athlete joined the Ukrainian army as a volunteer just days after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. During the war, he was assigned to Ivano-Frankivsk.
Mayor Ruslan Marcinkov confirmed the death of 32-year-old Merinov, who leaves behind a wife and a small child.
The authorities in Kiev estimated that 262 Ukrainian athletes died defending their homeland against Russian aggressors.
For this reason, the Ukrainian government has asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes from the upcoming Olympic Games to be held in Paris next year.
Merinov is not the only kickboxer who died fighting the Russians – Ukrainian world kickboxing champion Maxim Kagal died in March last year in the battle for Mariupol as part of the special forces of the dreaded “Azov Battalion”.
Mykola Zabchuk, also a kickboxer, died during the Russian invasion. Among the other famous Ukrainian athletes who lost their lives are the football player Sergey Balanchuk, Ludmila Chernetska (bodybuilding), Alexander Serbinov (athletics), reports the magazine “Sports Angels”. This is a magazine that was created last year with the help of the Sports Committee of Ukraine to report on the situation of athletes in the country, and which has so far published all cases of dead Ukrainian athletes.