Russia's number one female tennis player Daria Kasatkina has come out as gay after finding "living in the closet" impossible.
The world No 12 and French Open semi-finalist’s comments come as the Russian parliament discusses tightening already stringent restrictions on public discussions of LGBTQ relationships.
"Living in peace with yourself is the only thing that matters, f*** everyone else," Kasatkina told Russian blogger Vitya Kravchenko after telling him that she has a girlfriend.
"I believe it is important that influential people from sports, or any other sphere really speak about it. It is important for young people who have a hard time with society and need support."
Kasatkina added that she believes that "living in the closet" would not be sustainable long-term.
"There is no point, it would always be going round in your head, until you say something. Obviously, each person decides how to open up and how much," she said.
Soon after the interview was released, Kasatkina posted a picture on Instagram of her embracing Olympic silver medalist figure skater Natalia Zabiiako with a heart emoji and called Zabiiako "my cutie pie" in a Twitter post.
— Daria Kasatkina (@DKasatkina) July 18, 2022
Zabiiako, who won her Olympic medal with the Russian team in 2018, posted the same picture on Instagram, also with a heart.
Since 2013, Russian law has forbidden any discussion of LGBTQ relationships which is deemed to constitute "promotion of non-traditional sexual relations" to minors. That has restricted LGBTQ advocacy or protest in public forums.
There is an effort by Russian lawmakers to broaden this law with a complete ban on "promotion" of LGBTQ relationships in a positive or neutral light and on showing LBGTQ content in cinemas.
The 25-year-old Kasatkina is ranked 12th in the world and lives and trains in Spain, where the interview was filmed. In the interview, she also calls for an end to fighting in Ukraine.
"For the war to end," Kasatkina said when asked what she wants most in life, and describes the conflict as a "complete nightmare."
Russian authorities insist that the conflict is not referred to as a "war," but a "special military operation," and criticism of the war or the Russian military can be punished with fines or prison time.
Kasatkina is shown in the video crying when asked if she fears she may not be able to return to Russia after her comments.