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UEFA won't sanction Russia

GENEVA -- UEFA will not recognize any matches played by Crimean clubs in Russian competitions but stopped short of issuing sanctions against 2018 World Cup hosts Russia on Friday.

Three clubs from Crimea, a region in Ukraine annexed by Russia in March, debuted in Russian league and cup competitions this month.

UEFA's Emergency Panel ruled that the clubs' matches "will not be recognized by UEFA until further notice," the organization said in a statement.

The Ukrainian Football Federation had called for sanctions against Russia's football authorities, arguing that admitting the Crimean clubs meant the Russian Football Union broke UEFA regulations by acting outside its jurisdiction.

The ruling "satisfies us," the RFU's honorary president Vyacheslav Koloskov told Russia's R-Sport, because "in it there are no sanctions or threats of sanctions against the RFU."

Koloskov, a former FIFA vice-president, added that "UEFA, in my opinion, has acted very wisely."

The ruling is not a "tragedy," Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, a FIFA executive committee member, told R-Sport.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter visited Russia at the weekend for talks in Sochi with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mutko and World Cup organizing committee CEO Alexei Sorokin.

During the trip, Blatter reiterated his stance that the Crimea matter should be "overseen" by UEFA, according to FIFA. Football's world governing body did not specify whether the issue was raised during Blatter's meeting with Putin, or at another time.

UEFA, as Europe's governing body, has precedence over FIFA in purely European disputes.

Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta earlier this month published what it said was a leaked recording of a meeting of the RFU's executive board to discuss admitting the Crimean clubs to the league.

On the recording, which has not been independently verified, some of the participants express concern that Russia could lose the right to host the 2018 World Cup or that Russian clubs could be ejected from the Champions League and Europa League.

All three Crimean clubs covered by Friday's ruling -- SKChF Sevastopol, Tavria Simferopol and Zhemchuzhina Yalta -- are playing in Russia's third tier and none are competing in any UEFA tournaments this season, so UEFA's ruling is likely to have little practical effect.

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