Shakhtar Donetsk director of football Darijo Srna details harrowing 36 HOUR escape from Kyiv

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Shakhtar Donetsk manager Darijo Srna recounts the 36 HOUR car journey it took him to escape the terrible ordeal in Kyiv as he reveals UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin played a key role in helping the club’s foreign stars escape Russian invasion

  • Ukrainian top-flight club Shakhtar Donetsk were caught in the Russian invasion
  • Football director Darijo Srna explained how it took him 36 hours to escape
  • He appealed to UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin to help his players

Shakhtar Donetsk director of football Darijo Srna has detailed his harrowing 36-hour escape from Kyiv, after the club’s squad and staff were forced into a hotel for two days during the Russian invasion from Ukraine.

The former Croatia international also detailed how he managed to secure passage out of the country for his players thanks to his friend and UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin.

Srna and Shakhtar have been based in the Ukrainian capital since 2014, when initial conflict in the Donbass region forced the club from their home.

After the bombings began on February 24, the general manager of Srna and Shakhtar consulted before agreeing to meet club staff at their team hotel.

All foreigners and Ukrainian players who had nowhere to go arrived, a total of around 65 people.

Originally, they all approached embassies in their own countries, but received little significant help.

“The club offered two buses for everyone but there was no one who could tell you, ‘Yes, everything will be fine on the road,’ Srna told the Guardian.

“The second day the embassies were all saying they couldn’t help, it wasn’t secure, we had to stay in the hotel. That’s when you almost start to panic.

Shakhtar Donetsk director of football Darijo Srna detailed his escape from Ukraine

Srna with his family, who were already outside Ukraine when he fled by car

Srna with his family, who were already outside Ukraine when he fled by car

A number of the club’s Brazilian stars had also brought their children. Amid the din of overhead sirens, Srna called Ceferin to help find a solution.

Srna and fellow Croatian Dynamo Kyiv assistant Ognjen Vukojevic had both been told by their country’s embassy that they had to leave Ukraine immediately.

As a result, Srna embarked on a road trip to Zagreb with two friends and Shakhtar’s academy goalkeeping coach – an Italian national.

They took three hours to pass the club’s training base, a journey that usually takes around 20 minutes. He was in regular contact with one of the players – Brazilian-born Junior Moraes – to update everyone at the hotel on their progress. Srna said he could hear explosions as they crawled out of town.

Srna has been prominent on Instagram since his escape

Srna has been prominent on Instagram since his escape

Srna has been prominent on Instagram since his escape, posting video messages of support

Darijo Srna (right) takes on Gareth Bale in the Champions League in 2015

Darijo Srna (right) takes on Gareth Bale in the Champions League in 2015

Ceferin came out on top for the rest of the squad, as did Ukrainian FA president Andriy Pavelko. The Brazilians and their families were put on a westbound train, while Italian staff, including head coach Roberto De Zerbi, were also helped to leave the country.

“Ceferin and Pavelko have done a tremendous job,” added Srna. “They have shown that they are not only top presidents, but also top personalities.”

All Ukrainian players – except those with three or more children – have been required to stay in the country. Srna said everyone is still safe and even finding time for individual training to occupy their thoughts.

A woman reacts to the devastation following a rocket attack on Kyiv on February 25

A woman reacts to the devastation following a rocket attack on Kyiv on February 25

Srna is no stranger to conflict, having experienced it during the Croatian War of Independence and previously in Donetsk in 2014.

Upon his return to Croatia, he was able to find accommodation for some Shakhtar academy players between the ages of 10 and 17.

He played a prominent role on Instagram, sharing a video of himself in support of Ukraine, while sharing images of Premier League matches where solidarity with the country was displayed.

In total, the UN said more than 1.5 million people have now left Ukraine to take refuge from the invasion.

Ukrainian War: The Last

  • Russia steps up bombing as UN says 1.5m have now fled
  • Attempts to evacuate civilians from Mariupol fail again, amid repeated ceasefire violations
  • Ukraine’s military says it is fighting ‘fierce battles’ on the outskirts of the southern city of Mykolaiv,
  • Dozens of civilians are killed in the battle of Chernihiv in the north
  • Russian missile barrage destroys Vinnytsia airport in central Ukraine
  • Russian stores told to limit sales of essential foodstuffs to counter black market speculation
  • Thousands more are arrested during anti-war protests in Russia, bringing the total to more than 11,000
  • Vladimir Putin says he will achieve his goals in Ukraine ‘through negotiation or through war’
  • US gives Poland go-ahead to supply Kiev with fighter jets, fears it could drag NATO into war
  • Antony Blinken says the West is in ‘very active’ talks over a Russian oil embargo, despite the price at an all-time high
  • Credit card giants Visa, Mastercard and American Express are freezing their business in Russia. Russian banks announce they will use China’s UnionPay system
  • Consulting firms KPMG and PwC announce the end of their activities in Russia
  • France announces that it will send iodine tablets and other medical supplies to Ukraine. They are used to protect against the effects of radiation exposure
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says 20,000 international volunteers have joined the fight
  • Netflix suspends services in Russia and social media giant TikTok blocks posting of video content from the country
  • Foreign media including the BBC, CBC, ARD, ZDF, Bloomberg News, CNN, CBS, RAI and EFE have suspended reporting from Russia after Moscow threatened prison terms

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