Penguins' Evgeni Malkin finally addresses support of Vladimir Putin
OTTAWA, Ontario — Penguins star Evgeni Malkin said he joined a social media movement in support of Russian president Vladimir Putin as a show of solidarity with his home country's athletes.
Malkin made posts on Instagram and Twitter in recent days with a photo of himself and Putin wearing Russian national team hockey gear. The caption included the phrase, “Putin Team,” which is a reference to a movement in support of the president started by Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin earlier this month.
“We play here, we're far, but we understand what's going on,” Malkin said after a game at Ottawa on Thursday night. “We try to be together. It's not like me or Ovy are right hand for Putin. We just try to support because 2018, we have World Cup in Russia. They have election, too. It's a tough year. We want to be together and support him.”
Malkin said he also wanted to show support for his country's athletes as they face the possibility of not being able to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea due to a doping controversy.
“Tough time right now with Olympics, what's going on with doping,” Malkin said. “It's a tough situation. I want to support not just president. I want to support all athletics, all sportsmen, and support my country.”
Malkin said his relationship with Putin revolves around hockey.
“I know him,” Malkin said. “I've met him a couple of times. I have a great life. We played hockey together. It's amazing. It's a little bit different situation, but probably because he loves hockey more. He plays hockey probably every week.”
Malkin could face criticism in the United States for coming out in support of Putin, who is a controversial figure, especially amid recent allegations of his country's meddling in last year's U.S. presidential election.
“I don't know what's going on here, they don't like or like him,” Malkin said. “I'm not trying to read everything. I just want to say I want to support him.”