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Move to Russia, get dropped: Yaroslav Rakitskiy axed from Ukraine squad after Zenit switch

Move to Russia, get dropped: Yaroslav Rakitskiy axed from Ukraine squad after Zenit switch
Ukraine international defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy has been dropped from the country's national team after he signed for Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg.

Rakitskiy, who featured in four of Ukraine's five international matches in 2018, was a mainstay in the Shakhtar Donetsk side last season, but transferred to Zenit at the end of January, signing a three-and-a-half-year deal with the Russian league leaders.

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But the international defender, who has 54 caps for his country, was dropped from the Ukraine squad entirely by manager Andriy Shevchenko for the team's upcoming European Championship qualifying games against Portugal and Luxembourg.

Shevchenko has not explained why he took the decision to drop Rakitskiy, 29, but the matches represent the first international games played since Rakitskiy's move to Zenit, who are owned by Russian gas giants Gazprom. 

The player's decision to leave Ukraine for Russia had drawn criticism from within his home nation, with tensions between the two countries still high.