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This Russian Hockey Star Plays For Washington's Team And Has Launched A Pro-Putin Movement

Alexander Ovechkin, the three-time MVP who plays for the Washington Capitals, announced the "Putin Team" movement on Instagram.

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Look at this majestic, eagle-clad ice warrior. His name, for those not in the know, is Alexander Ovechkin, and he's the captain of the Washington Capitals.

Rob Carr / Getty Images

We can only assume this means that he fights for freedom on the rink every night, because that's what one does when you're the hockey team for the capital of the US of A.

And this is Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose name translates to Ice Puma,* for that is exactly what he is whenever he dons a pair of skates.

On Wednesday, the Moscow-born Ovechkin — who has played for the Capitals since he was drafted in 2001 — announced on Instagram that he was forming a new team: a #PutinTeam.

Instagram: @aleksandrovechkinofficial

Per a Washington Post translation, the caption reads:

“Personal achievements and medals — all of this 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. 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.

“I’m certain that there are many of us that support Vladimir Putin. Let’s unite and show everyone a strong and united Russia. Today, I want to announce a social movement in the name of Putin Team. 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.”

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You see, Putin is up for reelection in March 2018 — his potential fourth term — and though he hasn't announced that's he's running yet, it's widely presumed he will win.

Yuri Kochetkov / AFP / Getty Images

So I guess if you're a Russian athlete it can't hurt to show that you've got his back, even though he has an 80% approval rating.

Most of them, like Ovechkin, who still plays for the Russian national team during the NHL offseason, have close ties to Putin, who like his Soviet forebears sees success in sports as a way to show the strength of the government and country.

Afp / AFP / Getty Images

Ovie, as he's known around Washington where he's hella popular, and Putin are actually pretty dang close. Back in 2011, he said that he had Putin's direct number. Earlier this year he hung out with Putin while the president conducted his annual marathon call-in show.

"No, he does not know anything yet," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when Russian outlet TASS asked about whether Putin was aware of the Putin Team movement.

Michael Klimentyev / AFP / Getty Images

The Washington Capitals didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News and questions about whether the star informed the team of his plans before the announcement.

It does seem like a bit of a weird move when you play in the city that is paying the most attention to the whole "what did Russia do in the last US election and what did Trump know"...thing.

Patrick Smith / Getty Images

But I guess only time will tell if this winds up being a bit of deft stick-handling or a crushing own goal.

CORRECTION

Ovechkin plays for the Washington Capitals. A previous version of this article's subhed/dek mistakenly said that that he played for the Washington Nationals, which is, in fact, a baseball team that also ends in "als."

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

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