Russian officials have reacted angrily after the head of Ukraine’s football association unveiled a new national team shirt emblazoned with a map of Ukraine that includes Crimea.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and has sought to integrate the peninsula into Russia permanently, but it is internationally recognised as part of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s new kit was revealed on Sunday, days before the European Championship kicks off, on the Facebook page of the head of the Football Association of Ukraine, Andrii Pavelko.
“We believe that the silhouette of Ukraine will give strength to the players, because they will fight for all Ukraine,” wrote Pavelko. “And all Ukraine, from Sevastopol and Simferopol to Kyiv, from Donetsk and Lugansk to Uzhgorod will support them in every match.”
Sevastopol and Simferopol are in Crimea under Russian control, while Donetsk and Lugansk are controlled by fighters seen as Russian proxy forces.
The front of the yellow shirt shows the borders of Ukraine in white. A slogan on the back reads “Glory to Ukraine!”. Inside the shirt is a slogan that declares “Glory to the heroes!” Both phrases have become widely used in Ukraine in the military and among supporters of the 2014 revolution that ousted Viktor Yanukovych, who now lives in Russia.
The Russian parliamentary deputy Dmitry Svishchev was quoted by the Russian news agency RIA as saying the shirt design was “a political provocation”. He said showing a map of Ukraine “which includes a Russian territory is illegal”.
The Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said 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 US embassy in Kyiv voiced its support for the new kit on Monday, posting on Twitter: “Love the new look. Glory to Ukraine! #CrimeaisUkraine.”
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. Russia has also issued hundreds of thousands of passports to Ukrainians in the country’s east in a sign the conflict will remain unresolved for years to come.
A number of fixtures during Euro 2020 are scheduled for St Petersburg’s Krestovsky stadium, including a quarter-final match. Ukraine are not currently scheduled to play in Russia or against the Russian national side.
Ukraine play their opening Euro 2020 match against the Netherlands on 13 June in Amsterdam, and also face Austria and North Macedonia in Group C.
Russia take on Belgium in St Petersburg on 12 June, and also face Denmark and Finland in Group B.