Russian hockey player Alex Ovechkin, the captain of the U.S. National Hockey League's (NHL) Washington Capitals, has announced he is starting a movement in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ovechkin posted a message in Russian on his Instagram account on November 2 saying that he is starting "a social movement called Putin Team."
He added that he has never hidden his feelings about Putin and has "always supported him openly."
Ovechkin, who is 32 and was born in Moscow, has represented Russia in international play 30 times, winning three world championship gold medals. He says he has a good relationship with Putin, which whom he has often been photographed.
Ovechkin later sought to qualify his remarks, saying that he is not trying to make a political statement by voicing support for Putin ahead of a March 2018 election that is widely expected to hand him another presidential term.
Instead, Ovechkin described his actions as a show of support for Russia.
"I just support my country, you know?" Ovechkin said late on November 2. "That's where I'm from, my parents live there, all my friends. Like every human from different countries, they support their president."
"It's not about political stuff," he said.
With reporting by AP