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Russian Football Union should grant membership to Crimean clubs, senator says

Olga Kovitidi pointed out that sports must be beyond politics

MOSCOW, August 10. /TASS/. Russia’s governing body of football RFU should accept the membership of football clubs representing Crimea, Olga Kovitidi, a member of the Federation Council and a Crimean senator, told TASS on Wednesday.

The press service of the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) announced on February 28 that the Russian national team and all professional clubs representing the country were barred from taking part in FIFA tournaments.

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) stated later the same decision in regard to Russian football. Both FIFA and UEFA linked their decision to Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine.

"I am absolutely sure that sports must be beyond politics," she said in an interview with TASS. "People of Crimea love football, we enjoy unique climate, which allows us to be involved in sports, and playing football in particular, throughout the year."

"Football is the traditionally favorite sport for the people of Crimea and, after our reunification with Russia, many of them expected that the [local football] teams would be included in the Russian Football Union [RFU]," she continued.

"However, it’s been more than eight years already and we are still beyond the [Russian] football family," Kovitidi noted. "We were patient and were aware that the inclusion of our clubs in the RFU may result in negative consequences for the federation, but it became obvious after February 24 that there was no longer any need of leaning on the European society."

"The football clubs of Crimea should be represented today in the RFU, the Russian Premier League [RPL], primary and secondary leagues. We should be no longer aligning ourselves with FIFA and UEFA, which presented the Russian football with a ‘black spot.’ They don’t want to see us playing at any of their tournaments," the senator stressed.

Following Crimea’s reunification with Russia in March 2014 the UEFA ruled to organize the Crimean football championship pursuing the task of the football development on the peninsula. The Crimean Football Union (CFU) enjoys a special status with UEFA and was officially registered in mid-July 2015. The CFU is in charge of organizing the premier league championship with eight teams on the tournament’s roster.

"I believe that the RFU should include the Crimean clubs," Kovitidi said. "Crimea is an inseparable part of Russia and this is what the Constitution states. The principle law of the state must be observed."

"Moreover, being a lawyer, I should say that the Constitution states the superiority of national laws above the foreign legislation and the status of Crimea had been stipulated in all documents," she added.

On February 28, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued recommendations to international sports federations to bar athletes from Russia and Belarus from taking part in international tournaments, citing Moscow’s special military operation in Ukraine as the reason.

Following the IOC’s recommendations in late February, the majority of global sports federations decided to bar athletes from Russia and Belarus from all international sports tournaments.

Crimean reunification

After Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted in a coup in February 2014, mass protests erupted in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. On March 11, 2014, Crimea’s Supreme Council and Sevastopol City Council adopted a declaration of independence.

On March 15, 2014, the Crimean authorities held a referendum on reuniting with Russia. Most voters supported the idea (96.77% in Crimea and 95.6% in the city of Sevastopol), with turnout reaching 80%. On March 18, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the treaty on Crimea’s reunification with Russia. Ukraine, the United States and the European Union refused to recognize Crimea’s independence and its decision to reunite with Russia.