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15 Mar, 2022 10:13

Ex-Russia captain declines recall amid ‘difficult’ Ukraine situation

Artem Dzyuba cited family circumstances, according to manager Valeri Karpin
Ex-Russia captain declines recall amid ‘difficult’ Ukraine situation

Former captain Artem Dzyuba will not join up with the Russian national team squad for a March training camp, citing family circumstances and the situation in Ukraine, according to manager Valeri Karpin.

Zenit St. Petersburg star Dzyuba, 33, hasn’t featured in a Russia squad since Karpin took over after Euro 2020 last summer. The pair endured a reportedly frosty relationship stemming from their time working together at Spartak Moscow, although talks had apparently taken place to pave the way for Dzyuba to rejoin the squad.

But a recall has been postponed again, with Karpin citing the situation in Ukraine as the Russia manager spoke to the press on Monday.

“I spoke with Artem by phone on Sunday,” revealed Karpin. “He apologized and asked not to be called up for the squad because of the difficult situation in Ukraine, where lots of his relatives live.

“We had a good conversation and decided not to involve Artem in this training camp. We also agreed to stay in touch and we’ll monitor his performances with his club.”

Karpin named his 27-man squad on Monday for the camp set to get underway in Moscow on March 21.

The group is meeting despite Russia being banned from their World Cup playoff semifinal against Poland, which was scheduled for March 24 but has been scrapped because of the conflict in Ukraine.

Dzyuba was born in Moscow but his father, Sergey, hails from the Poltava region of Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Dzyuba waded into a public row on the military situation after being targeted by several Ukrainian footballers for supposedly not speaking out.

The 6ft 5in star responded by saying that “war is scary” but he was proud to be Russian, criticizing the sweeping sanctions placed on Russian and Belarusian sportspeople in the wake of the conflict.

“I am against discrimination based on nationality. I’m not ashamed that I’m Russian. I’m proud to be Russian. And I don’t understand why athletes should suffer now,” said Dzyuba.

Taking aim at several Ukrainian stars who play their football in the English Premier League but had called him out, Dzyuba added: “And to some colleagues who sit on their backsides in mansions in England and say nasty things: this cannot offend us, we understand everything! Peace and kindness to all!”

Dzyuba is among his nation’s most famous footballing figures. He emerged from the international wilderness to become a key part of Russia’s surprise run to the World Cup quarterfinal on home soil in 2018, being named captain by then-manager Stanislav Cherchesov after the tournament.

After putting a scandal over a leaked sex tape behind him, the targetman became Russia’s joint-top international scorer when he struck his 30th goal in national team colors during the Euro 2020 group-stage defeat to Denmark last summer.

However, that was the last time he turned out for ‘Sbornaya’ as Dzyuba missed the final seven games of Russia’s qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where the team missed out on an automatic spot in the showpiece after a last-gasp defeat away in Croatia in their concluding group-stage game.

That defeat sent Russia into a playoff semifinal with Poland in Moscow, which could have been followed by a potential meeting with either Sweden or the Czech Republic in the Russian capital five days later.

However, all three nations refused to face Russia in light of the military campaign in Ukraine, before FIFA and UEFA took the step of suspending all Russian teams from their competitions until further notice.

The Russian Football Union (RFU) are appealing the sanctions with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, although any decision may take weeks.

In the meantime, Karpin has decided to go ahead with a March training camp where the team is expected to play friendly matches.

The three forwards called up to the squad are CSKA Moscow’s Anton Zabolotny, Fedor Smolov of Dynamo Moscow, and Zenit’s Ivan Sergeev.

The absent Dzyuba has netted 10 goals in 20 Russian Premier League appearances this season, as well as providing seven assists.