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Shakhtar midfielder says players' lives at risk

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 22, 2014 at 8:37 am •  Published: July 22, 2014

Douglas Costa says he and his fellow players who are refusing to return to Ukrainian champion Shakhtar Donetsk do so because the conflict in the country puts their lives at risk.

Costa and five other South American players refused to leave France last weekend with the rest of the team to return to Donetsk for Shakhtar's first match of the season on Tuesday.

The players "all run a deadly risk if we are in the region," Costa said on his Instagram page. He said all six absentees wanted to train in Switzerland during the conflict, and were not seeking a transfer.

"I like the club, the people, the city, but I'm afraid," he said in comments posted alongside a picture of the Shakhtar badge. "We want to stay at the club, but we must have risk-free working conditions."

Costa, 23, has been with Shakhtar since 2010, winning five straight Ukrainian titles and reaching the Champions League quarterfinals in 2011.

Fellow Brazilians Alex Teixeira, Ismaily, Fred and Dentinho back Costa, along with Argentine striker Facundo Ferreyra. They represent less than half of Shakhtar's South American contingent, which also includes Brazil internationals Bernard, Ilsinho and Fernando.

UEFA has denied intervening in the situation after Shakhtar general director Sergei Palkin claimed to Russian agency R-Sport that UEFA "recommends that our players who have left the team return as soon as possible."

Palkin also said two of the missing players, Fred and Ismaily, would rejoin the team on Wednesday.

In a statement to The Associated Press, UEFA said its only communication with Shakhtar had been to discuss finding replacement venues for its home Champions League games.

"The communication did not reference the case of the six players," the organization said.

Costa's comments run counter to claims made by Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu, who has accused agent Kia Joorabchian of convincing the players they could use the conflict to sign new contracts with other clubs.

"It's a true scandal," Lucescu told French newspaper L'Equipe. "He took advantage from the situation to abduct them."

Shakhtar's billionaire owner, Rinat Akhmetov, has warned that the club could take legal action to force the six players to come back.

"If they don't come then in the first instance they will suffer," he said in a statement on Monday on the club website.

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