Today, U.S. Soccer and the Football Federation of Ukraine announced that the March 5 friendly between the USA and Ukraine, originally scheduled to be played in Kharkiv, has been moved to Cyprus due to political upheaval and violence.
After months of protests and confrontations with police, Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych was ejected on Saturday and is on the run, facing charges of mass murder after dozens of protesters were killed in Kiev last week.
“After discussions with the Ukrainian Football Federation, we have decided not to play in Ukraine on March 5 and are planning to move the match to a city in Cyprus," said U.S. Soccer via statement. "We are in the final stages of discussions with Ukraine and the Cyprus Football Association to determine the location and kickoff time.”
Recent Hall of Fame inductee Brian McBride recently asserted U.S. Soccer's protection of the U.S. National Team in an interview with me.
"The one thing I do know about security and U.S. Soccer is they take everything very seriously," said McBride. "It doesn’t matter if there are protests or any unsettledness wherever they go, they’ll be very diligent in finding out of it’s the right thing to continue with. There will always be security on the ground to take care of the team itself."
The U.S. State Department also issued a travel warning, advising U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine.
"The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine during the transition period following the departure of the President from Kyiv on February 22 and while a new government is formed. U.S. citizens in Ukraine, and those considering travel to Ukraine, should evaluate their personal security situation in light of political instability and the possibility of violence, particularly in Kyiv and areas of eastern and southern Ukraine."
Located in eastern Ukraine, Kharkiv is a stronghold of Russian support, while western Ukraine, notably along the Polish border, is pro-Western. The current crisis was sparked by Yanukovych's rejection of ties to the European Union.