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'I will fight for my country': Former Arsenal star puts coaching career on hold to defend Ukraine

Former Premier League footballer Oleh Luzhnyi says he will put his coaching career on hold to stay and fight for Ukraine.

Luzhnyi is one of Ukraine’s most decorated football players, being part of Arsenal’s double-winning season in 2002, lifting the Premier League and FA Cup.

Usually on a Saturday night, Luzhnyi will sit down to watch the day’s football highlights in his hometown of Lviv, western Ukraine.

Instead, he spent Saturday travelling between his home and one of the city’s many makeshift air-raid shelters.

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Luzhnyi won both the Premier League and the FA Cup with Arsenal. Pic: Action Images/John Sibley Digital

Follow live updates: Ukraine says ‘4,300 Russian troops have been killed or injured’

As recently as a week ago, Lviv was supposedly the safe place for domestic refugees fleeing the more vulnerable capital, Kyiv.

The American embassy was established in the city, and it was regarded as a safe space, even with the imminent threat of a Russian invasion.

More on Ukraine

But over the last couple of days, the air raid sirens have become more frequent and the US embassy has now moved its operations to Poland.

“The situation is horrific,” Luzhnyi tells Sky Sports via a WhatsApp message. “I want to come to coach in the UK but before anything I will stand firmly and fight for my people, for my country and for democracy.”

Football - Manchester United v Dynamo Kiev - UEFA Champions League Group Stage Matchday Four Group F - Old Trafford - Manchester - England - 07/08 , 7/11/07 Oleg Luzhny - Dynamo Kiev Coach Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Michael Regan
Image:
Luzhnyi will put coaching career on hold to stay and fight for Ukraine. Pic: Action Images/Michael Regan

Key developments in the Ukraine crisis:

Putin orders nuclear deterrent forces to be put on high alert
Zelenskyy: Ukraine and Russia to hold talks at Belarus border
Ukraine claims control of key city Kharkiv after fierce clashes

Foreign secretary warns conflict could last ‘years’
‘Hit list’ of Russian oligarchs drawn up

Before joining Arsenal in 1999, Luzhnyi won eight league titles with Dynamo Kyiv in the Soviet Union and latterly – after the declaration of independence in 1991 – Ukraine

Luzhnyi made 60 international appearances, captaining Ukraine 37 times. But his debut came for the USSR, aged 20.

“We all hope this will be over soon as innocent lives are being lost and families are being torn apart,” he said.

“A country being invaded and destroyed is all for what? We need to stand together as one and bring to an end this criminal warfare.”

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