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Ukraine Excludes Russian-Based Players From Its National Football Team

Insists decision wasn't political yet key players will now be absent from the 2016 Euro Football Championship

Ukraine has not included any players from Russian clubs in its preliminary squad for the European Championship, in a move likely to continue debate over alleged politically motivated selection.

The Ukrainian Football Federation's 25-man squad and four-man reserve list features players from clubs in six countries, but not neighbouring Russia.

Among those left out was striker Yevhen Seleznyov, who was a key player in qualifying but has not been selected since he signed for Russian club Kuban Krasnodar in the winter. He left Kuban last week and signed for Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk.

Also absent were Rubin Kazan forward Marko Devic and promising young midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko.

The federation issued a statement denying political bias when its squad for friendlies in March also contained no Russia-based players, saying:  'There was no other reason for the selection of players in the squad, including politics.'

Political tensions are high between Ukraine and Russia following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and Russian support for separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine. There are no longer direct flights between the two countries and trade has plummeted.

Senior Russian football figures have accused Ukraine of political bias, including Russian Football Union honorary president Vyacheslav Koloskov, who told Russian newspaper Sport Express in March that Ukraine's squad was 'a continuation of state policy.' 

Andriy Yarmolenko and Taras Stepanenko were named in the squad after they shook hands to settle a dispute which had threatened to overshadow coach Mykhaylo Fomenko's preparations for next month's tournament.

Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Stepanenko was blatantly kicked by Yarmolenko for kissing his club's badge and staging a provocative goal celebration in front of Dynamo Kiev fans in a domestic derby on May 1. 

'I would like peace and friendship to prevail inside our team. As a man, I am used to being responsible for my actions,' Yarmolenko said reading a prepared statement in front of assembled media on Thursday. 

'I admit my fault. I was wrong in that situation. I hope Taras would agree to shake my hand so that we can peacefully prepare for the Euros,' he added before shaking hands with Stepanenko. 

Stepanenko said: 'We have discussed this situation ... and I hope this won't happen again as we are likely to play side-by-side in the Ukraine team for many years. 

'This dispute should be considered settled.' 

Source: Daily Mail
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