Polish airlines refuses boarding to Russian player; Lufthansa denies ticket

A Russian tennis player was refused boarding to a flight operated by Polish flag carrier LOT, the airline confirmed on Tuesday, in an incident that drew an angry response from the athlete on social media.

Tennis player Vitalia Diatchenko said on Monday she was refused boarding to a LOT flight in Cairo, with German airline Lufthansa then also refusing to sell her a ticket.

“I slept at the airport, I was treated like a third class citizen (because of my nationality), spent a few thousand euro,” Diatchenko wrote. The 32-year old said she had been attempting to travel to a tournament in Corsica via Warsaw and Nice.

In an emailed statement, LOT confirmed it had not allowed the player to board, citing restrictions introduced by Poland’s interior ministry during the COVID-19 pandemic and updated in 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The provisions of the regulation introduce restrictions at certain border crossings, including airport crossings, in relation to citizens of the Russian Federation traveling from outside the Schengen area,” LOT said in an emailed statement.

The European Union has banned all flights from Russia and has agreed to limit issuing free-travel Schengen zone visas. In September, Finland joined the Baltic states and Poland in closing its borders to Russian tourists.

Diatchenko, who is ranked 250th in the world by the Women’s Tennis Association, said she then tried to buy a ticket with Lufthansa , but was told she could only enter the Schengen zone via Spain as it had issued her visa.

Lufthansa had no immediate comment.

Unlike many other sports, tennis did not introduce a blanket ban on players from Russia and its ally Belarus after the invasion of Ukraine.

Wimbledon banned players from the two countries last year after the invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”, but said in March that it would now accept them as neutral athletes.

Russian and Belarusian players have been competing on the tours and at the other Grand Slams as neutral athletes.

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