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By Margaryta Chornokondratenko and Alessandra Prentice
KIEV, May 8 (Reuters) - Ukrainians have taken to social media to invite soccer fans attending the Champions League final in Kiev to stay in their homes for free after hotels aggressively raised prices for match night on May 26.
Many hotels and apartments are asking several thousand dollars for accommodation that normally costs around $50 per night or cancelled existing bookings to charge higher rates for the expected influx of around 50,000 supporters.
Worried that the price hikes could damage Ukraine’s image, 27-year-old student Victor Kylymar set up a Facebook group called ‘Kyiv FREE couch’ where locals offer to host fans travelling to see the showdown between Real Madrid and Liverpool.
Kylymar said the final straw was when he heard someone was charging a couple of hundred dollars for the use of a dentist’s chair as a bed overnight.
“For me it was beyond the limit of common sense and insanity,” he told Reuters.
Since its launch on May 5, the Facebook group has gained more than 3,000 members and many offers of beds, sofas and spare rooms as well as free guided tours of the Ukrainian capital.
Some would-be hosts even volunteered to pick up guests from the airport or cook them borscht, a traditional beetroot soup.
Liverpool supporter Georgie Clarke, 27, said the inflated accommodation costs had prompted many fans to consider cancelling their trips to Ukraine altogether.
Before Clarke found a host in Kiev through the Facebook group, the cheapest place he could find to stay online was charging nearly $2,500 per night, he told Reuters.
“The people of Kiev have given the travelling fans hope to see their teams play and it’s amazing to see such hospitality from them. I’m looking forward to spending my time in Ukraine in an experience of a lifetime,” he said via instant messenger.
The final will be the biggest soccer fixture in Ukraine since it co-hosted the European Championship in 2012.
Since then a pro-European uprising in Kiev ousted a pro-Russian president, while a Moscow-backed insurgency in Ukraine’s eastern regions sparked an ongoing conflict with government troops.
Many Ukrainians are keen to welcome visitors and show their country has recovered from the worst of the political and economic crisis.
Some government officials have also offered to host fans including Minister of Information Policy Yuriy Stets.
“We’d like to invite family of fans to stay in our apartment for few days during The Final for free. The only 2 conditions: 40+ age and to be Real Madrid fan (Sorry, Liverpool) See U in Kyiv!,” Stets wrote in a post on Facebook that included an emoticon of a winking face.
Editing by Matthias Williams and Toby Davis