Ukraine’s national football team has been accused of political bias in its squad selection after leaving out players from Russian clubs.
The 25-man squad for upcoming friendlies against Cyprus and Wales contains players based in six countries but none who play their club football in neighboring Russia.
Among the players left out is striker Yevhen Seleznyov, who played both legs as Ukraine beat Slovenia in the qualifying playoffs for the European Championship, which starts June 10.
Since the playoffs, Seleznyov has signed for a Russian club, Kuban Krasnodar.
Political tensions are high between Ukraine and Russia following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and Russian support for separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine. There are no longer direct flights between the two countries and trade has plummeted.
Senior Russian soccer figures have accused Ukraine of political bias, including Russian Football Union honorary president Vyacheslav Koloskov, who told Russian newspaper Sport Express that Ukraine’s squad was “a continuation of state policy.”
The Ukrainian Football Federation insists the players in its squad were picked on merit alone.
“There was no other reason for the selection of players in the squad, including politics,” the federation said in a statement.
The dispute took another turn this week after one of Ukraine’s most promising young players, Oleksandr Zinchenko, was asked to travel to the Ukrainian capital Kiev but was then left out of the under-21 side.
The federation said Zinchenko had a virus, though his Russian club FC Ufa claims he was healthy.