UEFA says it has approved Ukraine’s new national team jersey that features a patriotic slogan and an outline of Ukraine that includes Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Russia seized control over in 2014.
The new design, unveiled by the president of the Football Federation of Ukraine, Andriy Pavelko, has sparked anger in Russia, with one lawmaker calling it a “political provocation."
The team jerseys are for the Euro 2020 championship, which was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and will be played from June 11 to July 11 in 11 cities including St. Petersburg, Russia.
"The shirt of the Ukrainian national team (and of all other teams) for UEFA Euro 2020 has been approved by UEFA, in accordance with the applicable equipment regulations," European soccer’s governing body said in a statement on June 7.
On Facebook on June 6, Pavelko wrote that the Ukrainian players will wear "special uniforms" and posted photos of the jerseys in the blue-and-yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag. They feature an outline of Ukraine as well as the slogan "Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!"
"We believe that Ukraine's silhouette will give strength to the players because they will fight for all of Ukraine," Pavelko said. “And all Ukraine, from Sevastopol and Simferopol to Kyiv, from Donetsk and Luhansk to Uzhhorod will support them in every match.”
Ukraine At War
Donetsk and Luhansk are eastern cities held by Russia-backed separatist forces that seized them in 2014, at the beginning of a war that has killed more than 13,000 people. Sevastopol and Simferopol are in Crimea, which Russia occupied and seized in March of the same year, taking control of government buildings and staging a referendum denounced as illegitimate by at least 100 countries. Moscow claims that the peninsula is part of Russia but it is internationally recognized as part of Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova derided the football jerseys, saying that Ukraine's football team "attached Ukraine's territory to Russia's Crimea."
Russian parliament deputy Dmitry Svishchev inaccurately stated that showing a map of Ukraine including Crimea was “illegal,” and called the soccer jersey design a “political provocation."
After the Kremlin took Crimea by force, Russia tried to legitimize its actions with a referendum widely derided as a sham. This vote was conducted in a heavily militarised environment and was illegal under the Ukrainian Constitution. The result has never been unrecognized by most of the international community.
Zakharova also took issue with the slogan, asserting on social media that it echoes a Nazi rallying cry.
The wording “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!" dates back to the World War I era. “Glory to Ukraine!” became a rallying cry at the Maidan protests that pushed Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych from power in February 2014, and “Glory to the Heroes” is used in connection with victims of violence at those protests and the war against the Russia-backed forces in eastern Ukraine.
The slogans have drawn criticism from Moscow for their association with World War II-era nationalist groups that both fought against and cooperated with the Nazis. Critics of the Kremlin, meanwhile, accuse Moscow of using the history of the slogan to advance a false narrative about Ukraine’s government today.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking to state news agency TASS, declined to comment and referred all questions to European football's governing body UEFA.