German basketball team mourns the death of 17-year-old Ukrainian player killed in alleged stabbing

German basketball team ART Giants Düsseldorf is mourning the death of 17-year-old Ukrainian player Volodymyr Yermakov, who left Ukraine in 2023 to escape the war with Russia, following an alleged stabbing on Saturday.

Police in the German city of Essen said in a statement that a row between two groups of youth escalated and resulted in four people being seriously injured, “allegedly by knife wounds,” with one of the victims later dying in hospital during emergency surgery.

“The two groups of people initially clashed verbally on a public bus on the way to Oberhausen city centre,” the police statement said. “When they left the bus at Willy-Brandt-Platz, the argument escalated into a physical altercation.

“According to initial investigations, a knife was also used. A total of four young people were seriously injured. Two Ukrainian male youths, aged 17 and 18 years old, from Düsseldorf suffered life-threatening injuries.

“Two other young people (a 14-year-old Syrian from Gelsenkirchen and a 13-year-old German-Lebanese girl from Oberhausen) were seriously injured.”

The police said a homicide squad at its headquarters in Essen has taken over the investigation and arrested two male suspects, aged 14 and 15, “both of whom are known to police with significant criminal police record,” the statement added.

Police said the 14-year-old has since been handed over to his legal guardians as “it was ultimately not possible to substantiate the urgent suspicion against him.”

ART Giants said Yermakov’s death “simply cannot be understood or put into words.”

“We mourn and bid farewell to our young player Volodymyr Yermakov, who fell victim to an act of violence on Saturday evening and passed away,” the team said in a statement.

“To escape the war in his native country, he moved to Düsseldorf in July 2023, where he had found his new home. Volodymyr was very popular with coaches, teammates and friends. He will be remembered as a young man whose everyday life was characterised by pure joy and sporting ambition.”

ART Giants said Yermakov’s teammate, Artem Kozachenko, “fortunately survived the attack and is currently still in hospital. We wish him a speedy recovery!”

The team said Yermakov was an “integral part” of its junior basketball league team and had been called up to the Ukrainian Under-18 national team, even occasionally playing with the club’s first team. Yermakov also participated in the 2022 U-16 European Championship, Division B, for Ukraine.

Police say investigations are continuing “at full speed.”

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