It’s an understatement to say that Ukraine and Russia are far from the best of friends.
Such ill-feeling manifests itself in different ways, and the latest infringement between the pair is a controversial kit that Ukraine had planned to wear at Euro 2020, which gets underway tomorrow.
The strip, in the country’s classic yellow, features a map of Ukraine that also includes Crimea, the Russia-annexed peninsula that the Ukrainians believe they rightfully rule instead.
The kit also features the words ‘glory to Ukraine’ and ‘glory to the heroes’, both of which could be construed as being inflammatory towards their bitter neighbours.
The #Ukraine shirt for upcoming #EURO2020 includes a map of the entire country, including Crimea and the Russian separatist regions. Also has slogan Glory to Ukraine! which was used to defeat Putin puppet Yanukovych. US embassy in Kiev tweeted “love the new look”. Russia furious. pic.twitter.com/rF6Q90qzRY
— Robert Lusetich (@RobertLusetich) June 8, 2021
The political connotations of the slogans were not lost on UEFA, who have now ordered Ukraine to make a rather hasty redesign of their kit ahead of their Euro 2020 opener against the Netherlands on Sunday.
UEFA declared that the slogans were ‘….clearly political in nature, having historic and militaristic significance’ despite initially signing off on the design. A complaint from the Russia Football Union was heard and upheld.
“This specific slogan on the inside of the shirt must therefore be removed for use in UEFA competition matches,” a statement from the governing body read.
However, UEFA will allow the kit to be adorned with the phrase ‘glory to Ukraine’, and the map can stay after the UN intervened and argued that the respective borders of the state can be identified.
Neighbours from Hell
Thankfully, Ukraine and Russia aren’t scheduled to meet at Euro 2020 unless both sides make it past the group phase – they could, in theory, meet in the quarter finals in Munich or Baku.
And whether by accident or design, they haven’t met each other in competitive action since the qualification campaign for Euro 2000.
Relations between the two nations soured in 2014 when ministers in Moscow ordered the annexation of Crimea, and conflict between the pair escalated when Russia-backed troops made their presence felt in the east of Ukraine thereafter.
Russia is of the belief that Crimea is theirs, whereas the UN recognises the Ukraine as the area’s rightful owner.
In slightly naughty fashion, the Ukrainians revealed their new kit design in a Facebook post on the page of the head of the Football Association, Andrii Pavelko.
“We believe that the silhouette of Ukraine will give strength to the players, because they will fight for all Ukraine,” he wrote on the social media feed.
“And all Ukraine, from Sevastopol and Simferopol to Kyiv, from Donetsk and Lugansk to Uzhgorod, will support them in every match.”
The issue is that Sevastopol and Simferopol are under Russian control in Crimea, while both Donetsk and Lugansk are also loosely under the leadership of Russian forces – hence the inflammatory nature of Pavelko’s post.
The Russian MP, Dmitry Svishchev, called the act ‘totally inappropriate’ and a ‘political provocation’, with ‘glory to Ukraine’ a popular military chant that has acted as a rallying cry for Ukrainians in the wake of the Crimean conflict.