Hong Kong-based Ukrainian professional footballer and coach Oleksii Shliakotin has not slept for three days since witnessing Russian military action in his homeland. The Hong Kong Rangers goalkeeper, who previously played for the Dynamo Kyiv and Ukrainian national youth teams, was on tenterhooks as bombs went off “two kilometres” from his parents’ home in his birthplace of Kyiv. “I don’t think it’s possible to describe in full what I feel right now,” said Shliakotin, who posted footage on Instagram describing the nearby bombs “landing while my 60-year-old parents are inside”. “It’s definitely the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced in my life – definitely the hardest moments I’ve ever been through. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Aleks Shliakotin (@aleks.shliakotin) “I haven’t slept since February 24. The worst part is the helplessness I feel, being that far away and just observing everything from the side. I’d prefer to be there now – at least I could take care of my parents.” Shliakotin also posted clips of tanks in the city and civilians taking shelter in underground stations, while describing his “strong hate” for Russian president Vladimir Putin ’s actions. He watched Putin’s orders in real-time from Hong Kong, in what were the small hours in the Ukrainian capital. “As soon as he finished, the Russian army began the invasion. I watched all these explosions live and I couldn’t get through to my parents for five hours. They didn’t pick up the phone. The worst five hours [of my life],” he said. “It’s impossible to be ‘safe’ when the Russian army – one of the biggest in the world – is bombarding cities all over Ukraine. “But I’m in constant touch with my parents. They have been mostly sitting in bomb shelters recently. I’m doing everything I can to organise safety for them – as much as possible, being in Hong Kong.” On Friday, Rangers posted a photo of Shliakotin on their official Facebook with the caption “please pray for Aleks and his family”, receiving more than 300 likes. “It’s just facts – Vladimir Putin started a war in the middle of Europe,” Shliakotin said. “He gave the order to attack live, everyone can watch it. The Russian army invaded the independent sovereign country that is Ukraine. “The Russian army launched air missiles and artillery strikes on the biggest Ukrainian cities. They destroyed most of our airports, are bombarding our residential buildings, and ruining our cities. They are killing Ukrainian civilians. Everyone who has internet can check all of the above.” Former Hong Kong-based Ukrainian Oleksii Melnyk – an ultramarathon runner and former local Spartan Race winner – is also watching in horror. While his family confirmed their safety to him, he still feels guilty for being “far away” as “the Ukrainian army protects the territories of Ukraine”. “They [are] f****** busters, what else can I say,” said Melnyk, temporarily based in Bangkok, Thailand owing to Covid-19 restrictions. “For Putin [the people are] toys. They come here without any reason … and take the life of my citizens. No country can cross the borders. War on our land. Crime.” ‘Devastating’: Ukrainians in Hong Kong taken aback by speed of Putin’s invasion For Bogdan Onyschenko, a Hong Kong-based trailrunner who like Melnyk represented the Ukrainian team twice in World Cups, the suffering has only just begun. “No, my friends and family are not safe,” Onyschenko said. “It is not possible for anyone in the country to be safe when the entire country is being attacked from all directions. Civilians are absolutely being targeted - multiple kindergartens, hospitals, schools have already been hit, with many casualties. “We are in contact with all our family and friends and have first-hand, real-time information, raw and unfiltered. Depending on how this war goes, we are facing a prospect of losing many of them by the time this all ends.” On Friday, Ukrainians in Hong Kong – alongside some Russians – staged a peaceful demonstration in Central against the attacks on their homeland, before it was broken up by police for violating social-distancing rules. Many have been frantically texting family and friends back home, while others from the Ukrainian-Hong Kong community are keeping a close eye on and sharing information via mobile messaging application Telegram. “I just want [Hong Kong people] to know that in 2022, the modern civilised world, by order of president Putin, Russia invaded Ukraine with a war. A war that will take a lot of lives on both sides,” Shliakotin said. “I’m extremely proud of the Ukrainians protecting our country. It’s impossible to describe how tough and fearless our people are, and how much they love our land. I’m sure we will stand till the end. The truth is on our side. “I’ve received thousands of messages from Hong Kong people with words of support. Thank you guys, I love you and I appreciate every single word. I wish you all peace and strong health.” In a Facebook post, The Ukrainian Society of Hong Kong said it was “shocked and horrified by Russia’s invasion” and “ask for an immediate cessation of this bloody military campaign which is violating our sovereignty”, providing a link to donate in support to “#StopRussianAggression” and “#StandWithUkraine”. In the South Korean K-League’s 1-1 “Gyeongin Derby” draw between Incheon United and FC Seoul on Saturday, some fans reportedly unfurled banners with messages in Korean translated as “football, not war” and “peace in Ukraine”.