CHERRIES defender Illia Zabarnyi shared how he could not sleep at night during Russian attacks when he returned to Ukraine this summer, iterating: “We need to know what's going on in Ukraine.”

In January, Zabarnyi made the decision to leave Ukrainian football for the first time in his career, joining Cherries from Dynamo Kiev for a reported £24million.

Whilst Ukraine currently stage ‘home’ fixtures in neighbouring Poland, Zabarnyi still returned to his country of birth this summer in order to see family and friends.

He also married his childhood sweetheart Angelina in his hometown of Kyiv, the nation’s capital.

Zabarnyi told the Daily Echo: “I went to Ukraine for two weeks and I didn't sleep at night, because everyday (there were) attacks at 3.00am.

“It's difficult.

“I got married in Ukraine, I'm happy I got to see my family, my close people, my friends.

“Of course I give all I can to help Ukraine and its defenders.

“It’s still bad, of course.

“We need to know what's going on in Ukraine.”

Over 1,000 miles away from his home, Zabarnyi knows that he can still do his bit to help his country in their defence.

He frequently updates his social media to share images from cities destroyed by Russian bombs and missiles.

It is now 18 months since Russia launched their invasion of Ukraine, with news and reports of the war slowly fading in prominence in the public eye of the western world.

As Cherries rounded off their pre-season campaign on Saturday, a charity matched named Game4Ukraine was staged at Stamford Bridge.

Former Ukrainian manager and Chelsea player Andriy Shevchenko captained one side as Zabarnyi’s international teammate, Arsenal’s Oleksandr Zinchenko, captained the other, whilst former Cherries Jermain Defoe, Jack Wilshere, and David James were also involved.

Organised to raise funds to rebuild schools severely damaged by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 30,000 watched on as the teams drew 2-2.

He restarts: “Of course it's difficult but I want to show how it is in Ukraine.

“I'm here in the Premier League.

“It's more important for me, because people know he’s Ukrainian, a Ukrainian player and of course his country is at war.

“People talk about this maybe help, give something.”

Back in Ukraine, Zabarnyi has close friends on the front line fighting for his country’s continued independence.

They are the same age as him, starting the war as teenagers.

Zabaryni knows that he can do more for his country as a footballer than he could on the frontlines, the 20-year-old supporting his friends whilst raising awareness.

“I have lots of friends the same age as me and they are defending,” he continues.

“They are soldiers. They are 20 or so years old and they take guns and go defend Ukraine.

“I give what they need, a weapon or a phone.

“(I pay for it) because it's only this I can do and of course I give all of what they need and I think it’s important.

“Every Ukrainian now supports and does 100 per cent to win.”