Russia has sent a letter of complaint to UEFA over “political” new kit set to be worn by the Ukrainian men’s football team in the the Euro 2020 competition.
The Ukrainian national team has unveiled a new jersey featuring a map of Ukraine which includes the Russian-annexed Crimea, and emblazoned with patriotic slogans.
On Tuesday evening, just three days before the contest begins, the Russian Football Union wrote to UEFA: “We draw attention to the use of political motives on the Ukrainian national team’s jersey, which goes against the basic principles of the UEFA kit regulations.”
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, meanwhile, came out in support of the new kit on Tuesday, saying it contained “important symbols”.
“The new jersey of the Ukrainian football team is indeed like no other,” he wrote on Instagram, posting alongside a picture of himself holding up the team’s new shirt. “It can be shocking. It features several important symbols that unite Ukrainians.”
Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014 in a move Ukraine has contented was illegal, appears on the shirt together with the eastern territories controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
The map corresponds to the internationally-recognized borders of the country. The jersey also features the slogans “Glory to Ukraine!” and “Glory to the Heroes!”, which were popularised during the uprising in 2014 that led to the ousting of Kremlin-backed former president, Viktor Yanukovych.
The slogans were first used in Ukraine during World War I as a rallying cry against Soviet rule. Andriy Pavelko, the head of Ukraine’s Football Association, wrote on Facebook that the new design would “give strength to the players, because they will fight for Ukraine.”
But Russia’s foreign ministry has hit back against the unveiled design, with spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying it created “the illusion of the impossible” and amounted to “state propaganda”.
Ukraine and Russia both qualified for the 24-team Euro 2020, but a UEFA rule in place since 2014 will prevent them from being drawn together. Russia will host seven Euro 2020 games in St. Petersburg, and none will involve Ukraine.