EXCLUSIVE-Soccer-Ukraine asked by UEFA to play matches in safe cities


(updates after Ukrainian Cup final)

By Igor Nitsak

KIEV, May 15 (Reuters) - The unstable political situation in Ukraine is beginning to affect the country's sporting landscape with UEFA asking officials to ensure that major soccer matches are played in the safer western regions.

European soccer's governing body has written to the Ukrainian Federation saying it considers Kiev and Lviv as the only cities safe enough to host matches in the near future.

A European Under-21 international between Ukraine and Latvia scheduled for Cherkasy on June 8 has been moved to Kiev, while two women's World Cup qualifiers against England and Montenegro in June will go ahead as planned in Lviv.

Thursday's Ukrainian Cup final between Dynamo Kiev and arch-rvials Shakhtar Donetsk was moved from the eastern city of Kharkiv to Poltava in central Ukraine. Kiev won 2-1 after two players were sent off following a mass brawl in stoppage time.

The Kiev and Donetsk fans, representing Western and Eastern regions, put their rivalry to one side before the game and held a peaceful march in support of the country's unity.

Cities such as Kharkiv, Donetsk, Mariupol, Zaporizhya and Luhansk have been deemed off-limits as pro-Russian armed separatists continue to clash with loyalist supporters.


"With regard to the security concerns in Ukraine we inform you that some teams have already ventured their anxiety," UEFA said in a letter to the Ukrainian FA.

"Consequently the UEFA executive committee arrived at the decision that Ukraine may stage the games in June under the condition they are played in Kiev or Lviv."

Last weekend's Ukrainian league matches scheduled for the eastern part of the country were moved to relatively peaceful central regions and were held behind closed doors.

UEFA officials said they will continue to monitor the situation and no decisions have yet been made regarding Europa and Champions League fixtures, where qualifying-round matches get under way in early July.

Shakhtar Donetsk will play in the Champions League group stage next season and Metalist Kharkiv and Zorya Luhansk have secured places in the Europa league.

UEFA has asked Ukraine officials to consider possible alternative venues for their home fixtures. (Additional reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris)

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