Ukraine loses 2015 Euro basketball championship

The Associated Press

Ukraine was stripped of the right to host next year's European men's basketball championship on Friday because of the continuing instability in the country.

Three of the planned host cities for the 24-team tournament were located in volatile eastern Ukraine, where government troops are fighting pro-Russian separatists.

Following Russia's annexation of Crimea in March, tournament director Markiyan Lubkivsky said that hosting the event was no longer possible, but Ukrainian and European basketball authorities had tried to keep the project alive.

FIBA Europe, the continental governing body, said Friday that its board had now decided the risks were too great.

''The decision was taken after a careful consideration of the continuous political situation and security issues in Ukraine, which deemed as less than favorable for the staging of such an important and demanding event,'' the organization said in a statement.

However, FIBA Europe said it will ''start negotiations immediately'' with Ukraine on hosting the 2017 championship.

A decision on next year's host will be made by September 30, with ''single or multi-country bids'' to be submitted by the end of July.

Even before Ukraine lost the hosting rights, France had positioned itself as a leading candidate to stage next year's championship, submitting a formal bid to FIBA Europe last month.

The decision to move the tournament out of Ukraine was announced three days after Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk hosted FIBA Europe president Turgay Demirel to discuss hosting plans.

Among the planned Ukrainian host cities for the September 2015 tournament were Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, where militant groups are pushing for closer links with Russia.

Next year's championship will include two dozen teams from across Europe. France is the reigning champion after beating Lithuania 80-66 in last year's final in Slovenia.

FIBA Europe also said the 2015 tournament will use an extended knockout system rather than a second group stage, a change that had been due to come into force in 2017.

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