KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine pulled out of hosting next year's European basketball championship on Wednesday, citing political uncertainty over Russia's annexation of Crimea and serious financial pressures.
Organizing committee head Markiyan Lubkivsky said he "cannot imagine how to carry out preparations in the current severe economic and political conditions."
Ukraine was awarded the biennial 24-team championship in December 2011. The tournament would have been played in five Ukrainian cities.
France has offered to replace Ukraine as host. Ukraine now hopes to host the tournament in 2017.
"It would be fair as we have already done a lot of preparation (and) started to construct the arenas that might be unfinished," Lubkivsky said..
The decision to relinquish the 2015 tournament came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to incorporate Crimea into Russia. That followed a referendum Sunday in which residents of the region overwhelmingly backed the move.
Lubkivsky condemned "the aggression of Russia toward Ukraine that has caused instability and threatens the security of southeastern regions of Ukraine."
"This situation demands for Ukraine to review our priorities and concentrate financial and political resources for saving (the) territorial integrity and even independence," he said.
Lubkivsky also cited the country's financial crisis and difficulties in meeting commitments to build arenas in the host cities of Kiev, Donetsk, Lviv, Odessa, Kharkiv and Dniprpetrovsk.
"There is a need to resolve hard social issues of higher priority," he said. "It is obvious our country cannot afford to support private investors building the arenas or fund preparations that we are responsible for."