Ukrainian footballer plays in Russia after the bloody occupation of his native Izyum, and his wife has built a business in Kyiv

Elena PavlovaSport
Denys Kulakov lived in Yekaterinburg, and his wife and children lived in Kyiv

The 36-year-old defender Denys Kulakov is one of the few Ukrainian footballers who continues to play in the Russian championship during the full-scale bloody war in his country. At the beginning of the invasion in 2022, he tried to do what was right by his conscience and suspended his contract with Ural for a while. But then he returned to Russia again.

The former Vorskla, Shakhtar, Dnipro, Metalist and Ukrainian national team player settled in Russia in 2015, after the occupation of Crimea and the creation of the puppet republics of LPR and DPR in Donbas.


During his time playing for the club from Yekaterinburg, Kulakov became a key player and leader of the Russian team. In the 2016/2017 season, the Ukrainian was named Ural's best player, and in August 2017, Denys was entrusted with the captain's armband.


Kulakov admitted to the local media that he really liked it in Yekaterinburg and was not going to leave. In gratitude for this, Ural extended the contract with the then 35-year-old defender until the summer of 2023.


According to Anna Kulakova, the footballer's wife, the only unpleasant moment of playing in Russia was the defender's separation from his family. Kulakov's wife and sons were not happy with the harsh climate of Yekaterinburg, so they preferred to live in Kyiv.


In Ukraine, Kulakova founded her own small catering company, runs marathons abroad in her spare time, and her sons followed their father's lead and started playing football.


"The first time we parted ways was when we had to send our children to school: the climate in Yekaterinburg is difficult, the children were often sick there, so now they are studying in Ukraine. It's hard to be torn between two countries because of the quarantine. I have to split the month whenever possible to be able to both look after the kids and be on time for Denis. In addition, I have a small catering company, so now I'm trying to combine trips, children and my favourite thing," Anna said during the pandemic.


After Russia's full-scale invasion, it became known that Kulakov had left Ural and fled Russia. The president of the Yekaterinburg-based club, Grigory Ivanov, said that Denys flew to his family. However, he did not terminate his contract with the RPL team.


"We have suspended the contract with him. I don't know what will happen next, I'm not Nostradamus. I hope everything improves and he returns to the team. We are grateful to Denys for playing for Ural for many years, he was our captain and served the club faithfully," Ivanov said.


However, in September 2022, it was reported that the defender was returning to Russia and had already been included in the application of the Yekaterinburg club for the next season. And this was after Russian troops destroyed his native Izium in the Kharkiv region, and more than 1,000 residents were tortured and killed during the occupation.


The mass graves in the Izyum area shocked the whole world, but apparently not Kulakov, who continues to play for Ural in a country that is killing his compatriots.


Earlier, OBOZREVATEL reported that a Ukrainian gymnast who fled to Russia whines about sanctions, and a propagandist sister hugs Putin.

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