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'We all believe we will win' – Shakhtar Donetsk CEO describes club's role amid Ukraine-Russia conflict

14:40 BST 27/03/2022
Sergey Palkin Shakhtar Donetsk
The man in charge at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium has offered an insight into the support they have been providing for refugees as the war continues

Shakhtar Donetsk CEO Sergei Palkin has described the club's role amid the ongoing military conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

Football in Ukraine was put on hold following Russia's invasion at the end of February, with Shakhtar among a whole host of clubs taking the decision to evacuate first-team players and coaching staff due to safety fears.

Officials at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium have since been doing their part to help provide aid for the 10 million refugees that have fled Ukraine amid the war, and Palkin has offered an insight into the process.

What's been said?

“At the beginning, it was quite hard. When the war started it was a mess at the border because thousands and thousands, maybe even millions, wanted to leave the country on one side and from the other we wanted to bring support, food and medicine from abroad, so it caused problems," the Shakhtar chief has told The Guardian.

"Now the situation is clear and structured. We are working in a good and normal way but we still have a few logistical problems.

“I stayed in Kyiv for two weeks and, after that, we talked with the club directors and decided we needed to start to help people and realised that a lot of refugees were coming to the western part of Ukraine and the directors decided to move to the west to open this humanitarian club.

“Thousands and thousands of people are coming from the eastern part of Ukraine; you see what is happening in Mariupol, with Kharkiv and other cities along the Russian border, therefore we are all trying to support them.

"Many of them are staying in the western parts of Ukraine, some of them go abroad to Poland, to Hungary and other countries, so they need big support here as the situation is catastrophic. In Mariupol, we have a humanitarian catastrophe and we need to help all those people.”

Palkin added on the current mentality of the Ukrainian people: “We all believe we will win, this is the most important thing. When you all believe in something and are united, this makes things more positive.

"We are not leading a normal life, when you switch on the TV to try and watch a film to relax. We have no time for this, you cannot think about relaxing. Now all of our efforts are on one purpose: to win this war.”

Palkin dreaming of Champions League return

It is not yet known when Shakhtar will be able to resume playing, or indeed if they will be able to compete in the Champions League next season.

Palkin is already dreaming of being back on Europe's elite stage, as he admits that the current situation in Ukraine has created an extra longing for a return to the normality that was previously taken for granted.

“We are dreaming when everything will be returned to normal, we dream of flying to play Champions League games,” he said. “For us it will be the biggest win and the greatest happiness, but for now we can only dream about it.

“When you are leading a normal life, you never think about being happy, or your freedom, as you do in all democratic countries. When you have this kind of situation where war has arrived in our homes, you start to think about the essential stuff.”

Palkin also expressed his gratitude towards the clubs across Europe that have united to show their support for Ukraine over the past few weeks, including those in the Premier League.

“We see everything that is going on around the world,” he added. “We see the English championship, we see the German championship and before every game we see big support and for us it is very, very important because when we see this kind of support it brings us strength and we get stronger to help our situation.

"For us it is very important. Thank you very much to all the football people around the world who are supporting us.”

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