Alex Ovechkin’s new “social movement” to support President Vladimir Putin received Kremlin backing Friday.
The Washington Capitals captain said Thursday on Instagram he was starting a group called Putin Team to “show everyone a strong and united Russia.”
Ovechkin added that he has never hidden his feelings about Putin and has “always supported him openly.”
“Personal achievements and medals – all of this is great, but in hockey, like with everything, to win it’s important to have a team. Only a team is capable of changing the course of a game, achieve the impossible,” a translation by The Washington Post reported the post reading.
“Lately, in the Western press, I’m noticing a comparison to Putin’s team. And you know, I really liked that comparison. Personally, I’m ready to be a member of that team. I never hid my relationship with our president, always openly supported him.”
Ovechkin added that he believed there are many Russians who support Putin and urged them to unite and “show everyone a strong and united Russia.”
“Be a part of this team – to me it’s a privilege, it’s like the feeling of when you put on the jersey of the Russian team, knowing that the whole country is rooting for you.”
Ovechkin’s call for unity comes as the country prepares for a presidential election, scheduled for March 18. Putin hasn’t confirmed he will run for a fourth term, but is widely expected to do so.
“We obviously welcome in general Sasha’s desire to express support for our president, especially from abroad,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, referring to Ovechkin.
Peskov added that Ovechkin is “a very famous Russian, a very successful Russian, and we really know that he values our president highly.”
Ovechkin, speaking after the Capitals’ game against the New York Islanders on Thursday, said he didn’t mean his post as a political gesture, but as a sign of Russian patriotism.
He hasn’t said what exactly the movement will do or how it will be organized.
Putin is a hockey fan who takes to the ice for annual televised exhibition games using the branding of the NHL — though in that case it stands for “Night Hockey League.” Putin plays alongside former star players and government officials, and regularly scores several goals, though his opponents seem reluctant to challenge him for the puck.
WATCH: Vladimir Putin joins hockey game, scores six goals
— With files from Global News