The Ukrainian football association has caused outrage in Russia by unveiling a new national team shirt emblazoned with a map of Ukraine that includes Crimea, in a move Russian officials called a provocation.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Moscow considers the peninsula part of Russia but it is internationally recognised as part of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s new kit was unveiled on Sunday, days before the European Championship kicks off, on the Facebook page of the head of the Football Association of Ukraine, Andriy Pavelko.
The front of the yellow jersey shows the borders of Ukraine in white. A slogan at the top of the back reads “Glory to Ukraine!”
. Inside the shirt is a slogan that declares “Glory to the heroes!”
Both phrases are used in Ukraine as an official military greeting.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Ukraine’s choice of uniform was the prerogative of the tournament organisers.
Asked whether the Ukrainian kit could fuel trouble if Ukraine and Russia play each other in the tournament’s knock-out stage, Peskov said: “Sport is sport, and we need to be above the incitement of hatred between Russians and Ukrainians.”
Dmitry Svishchev, a Russian parliamentarian, was quoted by news agency RIA as saying the design was “a political provocation”. He said showing a map of Ukraine “which includes a Russian territory is illegal.”
Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova wrote on social media that the slogans on the shirts were nationalistic and that the slogan “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!” echoed a German Nazi rallying cry.
The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv said it liked the new kit.
“Love the new look. Glory to Ukraine! #CrimeaisUkraine,” it wrote on Twitter.
“I really like our team’s new uniform,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “I can tell those who are fussing because they can’t stand our internationally recognized borders or our official state greeting: We will not allow our national symbols to be insulted!”
Relations between Moscow and Kyiv deteriorated sharply after the annexation of Crimea and the start of a Russian-backed separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Ukraine play their opening Euro 2020 match against the Netherlands on June 13 in Amsterdam, and also face Austria and North Macedonia in Group C.
Russia take on Belgium in St Petersburg on June 12, and also face Denmark and Finland in Group B.