Six South American soccer players who play for Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk are refusing to return to Ukraine after playing a friendly in France, reports the Associated Press.
The players risk possible fines and suspensions for not returning to their club.
The city of Donetsk is located about 38 miles from the MH17 crash site and has been a place of unrest as the Ukrainian military attempts to retake it from pro-Russian rebels.
The club's owner, billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, is the richest man in the Ukraine, and said in a statement if the players don't come back then "in the first instance they will suffer."
The six players are Brazilians Alex Teixeira, Douglas Costa, Ismaily, Fred and Dentinho, and Argentine striker Facundo Ferreyra.
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu believes that the players' agent is behind the refusal, accusing the agent of telling the players they would be able to sign new contracts with other clubs.
"It's a true scandal," Lucescu said. "He took advantage from the situation to abduct them."
According to the AP, if FIFA rules that the players have breached their contracts, the players can be suspended for four months and clubs can face a one-year transfer embargo.
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Shakhtar is scheduled to play in the Ukrainian Super Cup against Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday, in the western city of Lviv. The Ukrainian Premier League begins on Friday.
- Molly Geary