Brazilian football players in Ukraine appeal for government's help to leave country

Shakhtar Donetsk's Brazilian players have appealed for help following Russia's attack on Ukraine on Thursday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced martial law across the country Thursday, and the nation's top-tier soccer league has been postponed as Russian forces launch a military assault.

Thirteen Brazilian players from Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv striker Vitinho have sought refuge with their families in a hotel in the country's capital, Kyiv.

"Here we are all gathered, Dynamo and Shakhtar players, with our families, staying here at the hotel because of the situation," Shakhtar defender Marlon Santos said in a video that shows the players with their families.

"We are here asking for your help, due to the lack of conditions in the city, closed borders, closed airspace. There's no way we can get out. We ask a lot of support from the government of Brazil, which can help us."

One of the wives of the players added, "We women are with our children and feeling a little abandoned. We don't know what to do, nothing [information] comes to us. We make an appeal to you, even for the sake of the children. Each one left the house running to come to the hotel."

There are 35 Brazilian soccer players competing in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Shakhtar boss Roberto De Zerbi told Sportitalia: "I am staying in my room. Today is not a good day. I have been waiting for the federation to suspend the season until this happened.

"However, I didn't move. I am here to do sport and I could not turn my back on the fans. There are 13 Brazilian players here and my staff. We could have returned home, but we preferred to wait. Last night we woke up to the noise of explosions."

Former Shakhtar boss Paulo Fonseca, who is trapped in Kyiv with his wife and son, told Jornal de Noticias: "I woke up at five in the morning with five explosions in a row. I had a flight scheduled for today, but now it is impossible to leave here, not least because the airports are already destroyed and the airspace has been closed.

"This is the worst day of my life. Now it's time to wait and be lucky. And pray that a bomb doesn't fall on us."

Russian troops launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine on Thursday, as President Vladimir Putin cast aside international condemnation and sanctions and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would lead to "consequences you have never seen."

World leaders decried Russia's actions, and sources have told ESPN that UEFA are set to strip Saint Petersburg of the hosting rights for the 2022 Champions League final.