This story has been updated throughout with the official announcement of the ban.
Tennis players from Russia and Belarus have been banned from playing at Wimbledon in late June—and the Kremlin expressed its displeasure as soon as it heard a ban was in the cards. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov blasted the move ahead of the official announcement Wednesday, shortly after the New York Times reported that one was coming. "Making athletes victims of some kind of political prejudices, intrigues, hostile actions towards our country, is unacceptable. One can only express regret here," Peskov told reporters, per CNN.
Tournament organizers at the All England Lawn Tennis Club had this to say, in part, in announcing the move with its "deep regret": "Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible. ... It would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships."
Tennis' seven governing bodies previously banned Russia and Belarus from team events. However, Russian and Belarusian players are still allowed to play as individuals in tournaments so long as there is no national affiliation attached to their names, per the Times. Officials have argued players should not be punished for their country's policies, with some pointing out that Russian players Andrey Rublev, who sits No. 8 in men's singles in World Tennis Association Tour rankings, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who sits No. 15 in women's singles, have both condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which is supported by Belarus.
"I feel very, very strongly that again these individual athletes should not be the ones that are being penalized by the decisions of an authoritarian leadership that is obviously doing terrible, reprehensible things," WTA head Steve Simon told the BBC last month. Ukrainian players—including 19-year-old rising star Marta Kostyuk, currently ranked No. 52 in women’s singles—have clamored for a full ban, per the Times. The outlet notes Russia has four men in the top 30 singles rankings (including No. 2 Daniil Medvedev), and five women in the top 40. Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, a 2021 Wimbledon semifinalist, is ranked No. 4. (Read more Wimbledon stories.)