Russia demonstrates as Ukraine unveils Euro 2020 uniform with Crimea

Russia demonstrates as Ukraine unveils Euro 2020 uniform with Crimea

By AFP

MOSCOW: Ukraine provoked Moscow’s anger on Sunday when its soccer federation unveiled Euro 2020 kits with Russian-annexed Crimea and popular nationalist slogans.

Postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Euro 2020 will be played from 11 June to 11 July in 11 cities, including St. Petersburg. Russia’s second city hosts seven matches, including a quarter-final.

Andriy Pavelko, the president of the Football Federation of Ukraine, said in a statement on Facebook that Ukrainian players will wear ‘special uniforms’ and posted photos of the jerseys in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag.

The football sets contain the contours of Ukraine, which includes Crimea annexed by Russia, and the Donetsk and Lugansk territories, which are controlled by separatists, as well as the words “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!”

“We believe that Ukraine’s silhouette will give strength to the players as they will fight for the whole of Ukraine,” Pavelko said.

The slogan “Glory to Ukraine” is a patriotic song that has become a rally for protesters who ousted a Kremlin-backed leader, Viktor Yanukovych, during a popular uprising in 2014.

The uprising was condemned by Moscow as illegal and caused a crisis in the ties between the two countries. Russia has annexed Crimea and supported Russian-speaking insurgents in eastern Ukraine. The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people since 2014.

The calls “Glory to Ukraine” and “Glory to the Heroes” relate to Ukraine’s decade-old struggle for independence.

The slogans draw criticism from Moscow for its association with World War II nationalist groups that both fought and collaborated against the Nazis.

– ‘Illusion of the impossible’ –

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova mocked the soccer tours, saying that Ukraine’s soccer team had attached Ukraine’s territory to Russian Crimea.

The design reminds her of the art technique of ‘trompe l’oeil’ which deceives the eye and creates the ‘illusion of the impossible’.

Zakharova also said that Euro 2020 organizers and supporters “should know” that the Ukrainian rally “imitates” the infamous Nazi slogan.

“During the war, this Nazi battle cry was used by regular and irregular nationalist Ukrainian armed units,” Zakharova said on the messaging app Telegram.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke to state news agency TASS, declined to comment and referred all questions to European football’s UEFA.

Several Russian parliamentarians accuse Ukraine of politicizing football.

“This is totally inappropriate,” lawmaker Dmitry Svishchyov told RT, formerly known as Russia Today, urging UEFA to respond.

“Then let our players go to the field wearing T-shirts with the contours of the Russian Empire, which includes Poland, Ukraine and Finland.”

Anatoly Vorobyov, the former general secretary of the Russian Football Union, said European football’s governing body could interfere if Russia formally protested.

In conversation with RT, he said that the Ukrainians designed the kits under the influence of ‘magic mushrooms’.

In 2018, former Croatian Ognjen Vukojevic was kicked out of the delegation of World Cup semi-finalists after posting a pro-Ukrainian clip that sparked a political battle.

Following the quarter-final victory over host Russia, Vukojevic posted an Instagram video with him and Croatian defender Domagoj Vida chanting ‘Glory to Ukraine!’

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