Ukrainian footballer Andrii Kravchuk is training with Manchester City after fleeing to England following Russia’s invasion of his homeland.
City have agreed to let the 23-year-old midfielder train with their Elite Development Squad after he terminated his contract with Russian first-division side Torpedo Moscow.
Kravchuk said he could no longer play for the club after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and used his friendship with Oleksandr Zinchenko to come to an agreement with City until the end of the season following approval from the U.K. government, FA and Premier League.
“I felt really uncomfortable [at Torpedo Moscow], what has happened is shocking,” said Kravchuk, who has represented Ukraine at the Under-21 level.
“There were nice people around me at the club, but I was playing in a country that invaded my homeland. Leaving the club was the only decision. People in Ukraine would not understand me if I continued to play there.
“I am so grateful to Manchester City for giving me this chance to train with them. The past few weeks and months have been so difficult, but to be back on the pitch means so much to me.”
Kravchuk found out about the invasion in a 5 a.m. phone call from his mother while he was taking part in preseason training in Turkey. His family is still in the capital, Kyiv, and his brother, Aleks, is part of the country’s armed forces.
“My mother usually calls me at lunchtime after training, but this was different,” Kravchuk said. “Her first words to me were: ‘Russia is bombing us.’ It’s shock. I couldn’t find the words. I was destroyed inside.
“I cannot believe it’s happened. In the 21st century, in the middle of Europe. I still can’t find the words. A month before the attack, Russian military were around our borders, but I thought that was just a political move. We never expected this.
“My family are in Kyiv and safe right now. My mother has just told me she can still hear the bombs. I’m really worried. I am in groups on my phone and always receiving messages with bombing alerts. Every time those alerts come through I am so anxious. Your only thought is that my family can die.
“I speak to my brother every day. I tell him every day how proud I am of him, for not only protecting our family but the whole country and the Ukrainian people. He is staying and fighting.”
Kravchuk and Zinchenko, who has been at City since 2016 and played 48 times for Ukraine, have known each other since their time together at Shakhtar Donetsk‘s academy.
“While I wish the circumstances were very different, it has been good to be back with Andrii,” Zinchenko said.
“I know how much football means to him, and how it can help us during these difficult times. I would like to thank my club for giving him the opportunity to train with us.”