Updated: Friday, 18 July 2014 00:07 | By Agence France-Presse

UEFA says Ukrainian and Russian clubs cannot meet

Ukrainian and Russian clubs will not be able to face each other in the Champions League, due to security fears, European football's governing body UEFA said on Thursday.

UEFA says Ukrainian and Russian clubs cannot meet

FC Shakhtar fans wave Ukrainian flags during the Ukrainian Premier league football match between FC Shakhtar and FC Dnipro at Dnipro Arena in Donetsk on March 22, 2014 - by Alexander Khudoteply

UEFA said that its emergency panel had made the decision at the request of the football associations of both Ukraine and Russia, ahead of Friday's draw for the third qualifying round of the tournament.

"In light of the current political situation, the Russian Football Union (RFS) and the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) have expressed concerns about safety and security in the case of Russian and Ukrainian teams being drawn against each other in UEFA competition," it said in a statement.

"After evaluating the request and taking into account the safety and security situation in the region, the UEFA Emergency Panel has decided that Ukrainian and Russian teams cannot be drawn against each other until further notice," it added.

As a result, Russian club Zenit Saint Petersburg and Ukrainian side Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk will be prevented from being pitted together in the draw.

Despite concerns about the crisis in Ukraine, UEFA said that it had decided to allow games to go ahead in cities other than the capital Kiev and the western city of Lviv.

The decision affects Dnipro, whose industrial home city lies in southeastern Ukraine, as well as Europa League contenders Chornomorets, from Odessa in the southwest, where tensions have been high.

The eastern city of Donetsk, however, remains off limits.

It is home to Ukrainian powerhouses Shakhtar Donetsk, who have an automatic berth in the Champions League group stage.

Pro-Russian separatists declared a People's Republic of Donetsk in the industrial city in early April after seizing its main administrative building.

Ukrainian forces have gradually rolled back separatist fighters in communities across the east, but Donetsk remains one the last rebel bastions.

Ukraine, already in the grip of a deep economic crisis, plunged into a fresh round of political chaos late last year amid a massive wave of protests against then president Viktor Yanukovych.

The Moscow-leaning Yanukovych was finally pushed from power in February by a coalition of pro-Western groups and nationalists.

Russian-speaking militants then rose up.

Moscow in March annexed Ukraine's strategic southern peninsula of Crimea, mainly populated by Russian speakers and long home to Russian military bases.

Tensions remain high between Kiev and Moscow, which has rejected accusation of stoking the violence.

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