Geneva (AFP) - European football's governing body UEFA on Friday said that it would not recognise the results of any matches played by clubs from Crimea in competitions organised by the Russian Football Union (RFU).
UEFA said that the decision to punish Crimean clubs playing in the Russian league had been made by its emergency panel "in light of the complex and difficult factual and political considerations, and until an agreed solution can be found".
The strategic peninsula of Crimea, long home to Russian military bases, was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in March.
Moscow's move came despite international criticism of an independence vote by separatists in the mainly Russian-speaking province, following February's ousting of Ukraine's pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Russia has moved swiftly to impose its own laws in Crimea, and thousands of Muslim Tatars and pro-Ukrainian residents have fled.
Last month the RFU gave three Crimean clubs -- TSK Simferopol, SKCF Sevastopol and Zhemchuzhina Yalta -- the all-clear to join the southern zone of the Russian league third division.
The trio were recently refounded from scratch and registered in the southern Russian cities of Krasnodar and Rostov-on-Don, in what may have been an attempt to duck potential UEFA sanctions.
Since then, they have seen action in the Russian Cup, with Sevastopol beating Simferopol in the first round on August 12, while Yalta lost 2-0 to Sochi.
Sevastopol continued their cup run by knocking out Sochi -- a club from Russia proper -- on penalties in the second round last Saturday. They are due to meet southern Russian club Taganrog in the third round this weekend.
UEFA said that its decision applied "until further notice".
It was not immediately clear what impact its decision would have on Russia's berths in this season's European club competitions, for example if the eventual winner of the Russian Cup faces a Crimean club on the road to the final.
UEFA said that it would work with its global counterpart FIFA to try to broker fresh discussions between the RFU and the Football Federation of Ukraine. Earlier efforts failed.
The goal, it said, is to "find a common solution to this situation".
"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," it underlined.
"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," it added.
- 'What do we care?' -
In response, Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko said there was "nothing dramatic" in UEFA's statement.
The R-Sport news agency quoted Mutko as saying: "UEFA is just acting within the scope of its own regulations. I think the RFU has made the right decision and there's no way back.
"According to our laws Crimea is Russia's territory and the RFU is acting for the benefit of football."
Former RFU chief and current honorary president Vyacheslav Koloskov added: "I think we shoud be pleased as there are no sanctions or threat of sanctions for the RFU. They (UEFA) will not recognise the results (of the Crimean clubs)...what do we care?"
Last week, Ukrainian federation boss Anatoly Konkov called on UEFA and FIFA to punish the RFU for admitting clubs from Crimea.
"The Russian Football Union executive board illegally and arbitrarily incorporated the Ukrainian clubs from the Crimean peninsula," he said in a letter released on his official website.
Konkov charged that the RFU had ignored the rules of the game by failing to notify FIFA or UEFA officially.
"Crimea is a part of Ukraine, so all football agents in Crimea are under the jurisdiction of the Football Federation of Ukraine," he added.