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Football team in Ukraine war zone changes homes

updated 9:32 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
After Douglas Costa said he was
After Douglas Costa said he was "afraid" to return to Shakhtar Donetsk, the club has moved its home games to Lviv.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Shakhtar Donetsk will now play its home games in the western city of Lviv
  • Ukraine's top football club and the Champions League regular moves its base to Kiev
  • The announcement comes after six players refused to return to Shakhtar
  • Shakhtar won the Ukrainian Super Cup on Tuesday and starts league play Sunday

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(CNN) -- After Brazilian midfielder Douglas Costa said he was "afraid" to return to Shakhtar Donetsk, the Ukrainian club located in a war zone announced that it would play its home games elsewhere.

Shakhtar, Ukraine's top club and a regular in the Champions League, now plans on contesting its home matches in the western city of Lviv near the Polish border and will shift its training base to the capital, Kiev, from Donetsk.

Shakhtar begins its league campaign with a "home" game Sunday against Metalurh Zaporizhya.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine were already running high but further escalated after MH17 was shot down near Donetsk in eastern Ukraine Thursday.

The U.S. believes pro-Russian rebels shot down the plane, which the rebels deny, while Ukraine has accused Russia of involvement -- which Russia has also denied, blaming Ukraine's military for the tragedy.

"We will play all of our home games at the Arena Lviv so far," Shakhtar manager Mircea Lucescu told the club website after Tuesday's win over Dynamo Kiev in Lviv in the Ukrainian Super Cup.

"The team liked the city and the atmosphere here was great."

Lucescu didn't know when the team would resume home games at the Donbass Arena, which, like the Arena Lviv, staged games during Euro 2012, co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland.

Costa is one of six South American players who refused to return to Shakhtar following a friendly in France. All six didn't play in the 2-0 victory against Dynamo.

Writing on his Instagram page this week, Costa, who has previously been linked with Manchester United, insisted he wasn't "abandoning" the club but that "in this moment we are all concerned (for) our lives." He is now being linked with a loan move to the English Premier League or Italy's Serie A.

Shakhtar president Rinat Akhmetov, meanwhile, said that if the players didn't come back, they would "suffer" while insisting the club would keep them safe.

Captain Darijo Srna dedicated Tuesday's win to Shakhtar's fans.

"We know that our fans are with us," Srna, with Shakhtar since 2003, told the club website. "This victory is for them, for Donbass, for all the people who are going through the hard war times.

"I do not know what to say. My heart hurts, my soul hurts. But we still try to show our football, the Shakhtar type. Trying to give a festival to all the fans of Shakhtar.

"Everyone who is a fan of Shakhtar should know this: I'm with you, the team is with you!"

Read: Shakhtar president's warning to AWOL players

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