BERNE (Reuters) - UEFA will not recognise any matches played by Crimean clubs under the auspices of the Russian Football Union (RFS), European football's ruling body said on Friday.
UEFA said in a statement on its website (www.uefa.org) that its Emergency Panel had made the decision in light of the "complex and difficult factual and political considerations" with regard to the situation in the Crimea.
"Any football matches played by Crimean clubs in the context of competitions organised by the Russian Football Union (RFS) will not be recognised by UEFA until further notice," said the statement.
"UEFA has no wish to prevent clubs from playing football. On the contrary, UEFA recognises that football can have very positive and beneficial effects in bringing people together, especially during times of strife and unrest.
"Nevertheless, in order for football to take place within an organised sporting and legal framework, such participation has to comply with the terms set out in the UEFA Statutes, which have been agreed by all 54 UEFA member associations.
"The UEFA Emergency Panel has also requested that the UEFA administration, together with FIFA, facilitate discussions with the representatives of the RFS and the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) in order to find a common solution to this situation."
UEFA's decision came 10 days after Ukraine's football federation called on both UEFA and world football governing body FIFA to sanction the RFS for bringing Crimean clubs into its league structure.
Three Crimean teams - TSK Simferopol, SKChF Sevastopol and Zhemchuzhina Yalta - have been accepted to play in the Russian championship next season.
The trio played matches in the Russian Cup on Aug. 12.
An official letter of complaint signed by Anatoly Konkov, Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) president, was posted on the domestic governing body's official website.
“With all respect, we are addressing you (FIFA and UEFA) over the events troubling not only the Ukrainian football society but also the whole football community," it said.
"We have witnessed the executive committee of the Russian football union illegally and arbitrarily embracing the Ukrainian clubs from the Crimea peninsula.
"As far as we know, the Russian football union officially informed neither UEFA nor FIFA about this decision. I consider it necessary to inform you that three Ukrainian clubs have played in the Russian Cup.
"We understand this activity is in conflict with the regulations of FIFA, UEFA, FFU and RFS."
"Crimea is a part of Ukraine, that is why all football members fall into the jurisdiction of the Football Federation of Ukraine," Konkov added.
Russia's Minister for Sport Vitaly Mutko played down the significance of UEFA's decision.
"There is nothing dramatic about this statement as UEFA were just abiding by their regulations," Mutko told the R-Sport agency.
"I believe the Russian Football Union (RFS) has made the right choice and there is no way back now. Under our laws, Crimea is part of Russia and the RFS is acting in the interests of football - people there want to play football.
"This is not the end of the world, we will see what can be done. There are other options. Our federation needs to look at this question and discuss it with our colleagues. The most important thing is that the RFS is not going to be punished in any way."
Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March, shortly after Ukrainian protesters toppled pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovich in February.
The RFS's executive committee decided to include the three Crimean clubs in the southern zone of the Russian second division, the country's third tier.
(Writing by Tim Collings; Editing by Toby Davis)