A new jersey for the Ukraine men’s soccer team, featuring a map that includes annexed Crimea, has sparked outrage in Russia.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, known for her sometimes hyperbolic public comments, said in a Facebook post on Sunday evening that the Ukrainian national team “is attaching Ukrainian territory to Russian Crimea” on its news. jerseys.
That the movement creates “an illusion of the impossible”.
The shirts were unveiled on Sunday, a few days before the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament, by the president of the Ukrainian Football Association, Andriy Pavelko.
Photos shared by Pavelko on his Facebook page show that the front of the yellow jerseys features an outline of Ukraine’s borders emblazoned in white, including the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014.
Moscow considers Crimea to be part of Russian territory, calling its annexation “reunification”, but its claim is rejected internationally.
“We believe that the silhouette of Ukraine will give strength to our players as they will fight for all of Ukraine,” Pavelko said in the post.
The American Embassy in Kiev tweeted his support for Ukraine’s new shirts, saying they “love the new look” and using the hashtag #CrimeaisUkraine.
Relations between Moscow, Kiev and the West have deteriorated sharply after the annexation of the peninsula and the start of the military conflict in eastern Ukraine between the Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian army, which has killed more than 14,000 people.
Football shirts also include the territories of the self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, which declared independence from Kiev as a result of the conflict.
A slogan on the top of the back of the shirts reads “Glory to Ukraine!” Inside the shirt is a slogan that states “Glory to the Heroes!” Both phrases are used in Ukraine as an official military greeting and a patriotic song that gained popularity following the 2014 protests that saw a pro-Russian government overthrown in Kiev. .
A pro-Kremlin politician from the ruling United Russia party and former professional boxer Nikolai Valuev also criticized the move, saying it was “an attempt to politicize sport”.
“It’s ugly,” he told Russian sports news site Championat.
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Russian MP Dmitry Svishchev told Russian state news agency RT that the design of the jersey amounted to “a political provocation”. He told the outlet he hoped Euro 2020 officials reacted and urged Ukraine to redesign the shirts.
In an email to NBC News on Monday, UEFA, the governing body of European football, said it had approved the Ukrainian national team jersey for Euro 2020 “in accordance with applicable regulations in equipment “.
The tournament, postponed by the Covid-19 pandemic last year, will start in Rome on June 11.