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Citing battle danger, six players to go AWOL from Ukraine soccer team

Six players with Ukrainia's Shakhtar Donetsk have refused to accompany the squad home to the Ukraine

Six players with reigning Ukrainian Premier League champion Shakhtar Donetsk have refused to return to Donetsk because of the fighting surrounding the city, club management confirmed.

The six -- five Brazilians and an Argentine -- were with the team in France for a friendly last weekend but refused to accompany the squad home to the Ukraine. In a statement posted on the club’s website and reprinted in the London Guardian, team owner Rinat Akhmetov threatened to invoke clauses in the players’ contracts that could force them to pay “tens of millions or euros” to Shakhtar.

The six players -- Brazilians Frederico Rodriguez de Paula Santos, Douglas Costa, Dentinho, Alex Teixiera and Ismaily along with Argentina’s Facundo Ferreyra -- all appeared in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Olympique Lyonnais in France.  

“Players have contracts that they have to abide by,” the Guardian quotes Akhmetov as writing. “If they do not come, I think they will be the first to suffer…. Hopefully the mind and heart will prevail over misunderstanding and the players will not follow temptation and fear. Especially since there is nothing to fear. We are ready to provide security. We will not take risks, and in any case we won’t bring players to dangerous places.”

The Ukrainian military is waging a battle to retake Donetsk from pro-Russian rebels. The Ukrainian Football Federation has not decided where Shakhtar will play its home games when the league season begins next month.

“We want to play in Donetsk very much,” Akhmetov said. “But unfortunately, at the moment we cannot do it.”

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