Last month, Alexander Ovechkin posted the above photo to his Instagram account last month. It featured the caption, "Our grandparents have seen the horrors of fascism. We will not allow it in our time!!" and the hashtag #savechildrenfromfascism.

The message could not have been clearer. Ovechkin was announcing his support for the pro-Russian rebels fighting in Ukraine, with the assistance, both material and corporeal, of Russian forces.

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("Fascism" has become the Russian byword for the current pro-Western government of Ukraine, and the hashtag Ovechkin used appears on Russian social media and in a photo campaign featuring Ovechkin and other Russian athletes.)

Ovechkin's photo became a bit of a to-do, and judging from his explanation to ESPN's Craig Custance, he would like to keep it from getting any bigger.

"I don't try to make a statement," Ovechkin told ESPN.com. "Right now, as a Russian, I have lots of friends from Ukraine. I just don't want a war. Nobody wants a war. Especially when people are so close. It's hard to see especially when you live so close to Ukraine. It's hard and it's dangerous. People die."

Ovechkin said the situation in Ukraine was a focal point of his summer in Russia.

"We watch the news all the time," Ovechkin said. "It's hard. I have lots of friends up there. The people who live there, they don't want war. They just want to have a good life like all of us."

In these turbulent times, it's nice to know that athletes are the same no matter what country they're from. You can talk them into making any sort of political statement, but when they realize it's actually controversial, they'll drop it like a smoldering chunk of Boeing 777 wreckage.

[ESPN]