MOSCOW: Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has returned home from Zurich confident that FIFA has cleared the way for Crimea’s top two clubs to join the Russian league this summer writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The status of Tavriya Simferopol and PFC Sevastapol became confused after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine for which it claimed 96.77pc approval in a controversial referendum.

Ukraine’s football federation said that the two clubs would complete its league season.

Mutko, who is also a member of the FIFA executive committee, is understood to have requested the world federation to approve the immediate switch of the clubs into the Russian league.

Sources close to the exco indicated this proposal had been turned down, partly on the basis that even the United Nations had yet to rule formally on the Crimea crisis.

However Mukto believes he was cleared to accomplish the ‘transfer’ at the season’s end.

He told Russian media: “This topic was discussed under an agenda item about sports and political matters at the exco meeting [and] I have been informed that it is a reality – there are two new clubs in Russia. Yes, they will work within the sporting regulations of the country.

“We are interested in friendly relations with Ukraine and are not going to destroy the integrity of its championship. The season ends in May and we will then return to these questions and discuss what the formula would be.

“This is a matter now for the Russian federation and its premier league.”

Rustam Temirgaliev, the First Deputy Prime Minister of Crimea, has also accepted the clubs’ transfer as a fait accompli.

He said today: “With Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko I have discussed the possibility of a participatory transition of Tavria Simferopol to the Russian premier league this summer. I have also begun talks with a potential sponsor for the club.

“I hope that, this autumn, we will see Simferopol playing Zenit St Petersburg, Moscow Spartak and Rubin Kazan.”

In the 16-club Ukraine league PFC Sevastopol are comfortably in 11th position but Tavriya are effectively bottom. They have eight points from 18 games and the only club beneath them are Arsenal Kiev who have no points after going bankrupt.

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