Six Shakhtar Donetsk players refuse to play for war-torn club

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As the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine rumbles in Eastern Ukraine, six soccer players have refused to return to the highly volatile region.

Alex Teixeira, Fred, Dentinho, Douglas Costa, Facundo Ferreyra and Ismaily all play for Ukrainian champions Shakhtar but have all voted against returning to the highly-volatile region ahead of the new season.

After Shakthar played French side Lyon in a friendly over the weekend, the six aforementioned refused to get back on the plane to Donetsk. The city is currently being controlled by pro-Russian rebels but the Ukrainian army are trying to gain control of it.

Simply put, it’s not a safe place to be.

Donetsk is located less than two hours away from where Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was believed to have been shot down by pro-Russian rebels on Friday. Ahead of the new Ukrainian season the club still doesn’t know where it will be playing its home games, as a neutral venue must be organized.

The six players in question are all from South America, five from Brazil and one from Argentina, and the club’s billionaire owner Rinat Akhmetov has issued the following warning.

“If they don’t come then in the first instance they will suffer,” Akhmetov said in a statement on Shakhtar’s website. While also going on to state that refusing to fulfill their contracts could cost the players “tens of millions of euros” in compensation payments to the club.

There is also a twist as Shakhtar’s Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu blamed super-agent Kia Joorabchian as the players did not return to Ukraine. According to Lucescu, their agent Joorabchian turned up in Lyon and took the players away. Shakhtar believe Joorabchian wants to make all the players free-agents and profit from them signing new deals at other clubs. The likes of Costa have been linked with a switch to Manchester United.

With Shakhtar set to play in this seasons UEFA Champions League and the Ukrainian season set to begin this weekend, plenty of question lie ahead as to how safe it is to play soccer in the Ukraine.