Soccer clubs in Crimea join Russian league, sparking renewed outrage over occupation

Russia's controversial annexation of Ukraine's territory in Crimea has extended into the soccer arena.
By JC Finley  |  Aug. 1, 2014 at 5:52 PM
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MOSCOW, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Months after Russia's controversial annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, three Crimean soccer clubs have signed on to play for the Russian Football Union.

The union announced on Thursday that SKChF from Sevastopol, Zhemchuzhina (aka "Pearl") from Yalta, and TSK from Simferopol will play for the second division of the Professional Football League in the 2014-2015 season.

The news was not welcomed by the Ukrainian Football Federation, which asserted that while Russia is temporarily occupying Crimea, it remains part of Ukraine. Federation Vice President Anatoly Popov said he believes the Russian Football Union should face "consequences" for poaching the teams without Ukraine's permission.

"All football in Crimea is under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Football Federation in every sense of the word. Our government will do everything to return Crimea, and we'll do everything to return Crimean football to Ukraine."

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mukto claims the decision to accept the Crimean soccer clubs into the Russian Football Federation was an "internal" decision.

"What can the Ukrainian Football Federation file a complaint about? Explain that to me. People can choose to accept it, but we're making the decision here, because it's our internal affair."

The Ukrainian government continues to refute Russia's claim of control over Crimea. On June 26, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg that "Our relations cannot be normalized [with Russia] without the return of Crimea."

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