Russian officials and deputies denounced the design of the Ukrainian national team’s shirt for the upcoming European Championship.
Ukraine’s yellow and blue shirt design included a map of the country including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014 after its president, close to Moscow, was ousted.
Most of the international community has not recognized this annexation, and international law still recognizes Crimea as Ukrainian territory.
Andriy Pavelko, head of the Ukrainian Football Association, presented the new uniform on his Facebook page on Sunday, hailing it as a symbol of the “one undivided nation” that would inspire players to “compete for the whole of Ukraine,” according to the Associated Press.
The front of the yellow shirt shows the borders of Ukraine in white, and there is a slogan at the top of the back that says “Glory to Ukraine!”, and a phrase inside the shirt that reads “Glory to the heroes!” Both phrases are used in Ukraine as the official military salute, according to Reuters.
It is noteworthy that Pavelko is also a member of the UEFA Executive Committee, which approved the design for the tournament.
“The jerseys of the Ukrainian national team, and all other teams for Euro 2020, have been approved, in accordance with the regulations in force,” the Swiss-based committee said.
However, Russia quickly rejected this order, describing it as a “provocative”.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also ridiculed the design, calling it a “desperate” gesture.
Dmitry Svishov, a member of the lower house of the Russian parliament, denounced Ukraine’s uniform as a political gesture aimed at drawing sports into politics.
He added that displaying a map of Ukraine “which includes Russian territory is illegal.”
Reuters quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying that Ukraine’s choice of uniform was the prerogative of the tournament organizers.
Asked whether the Ukrainian shirt might fuel problems if Ukraine and Russia played against each other in the tournament’s knockout stage, Peskov said: “Sports is a sport, and we need to be above inciting hatred between Russians and Ukrainians.”
For its part, the US Embassy in Kiev said it loved the new collection, and wrote on Twitter, “We loved the new look. Glory to Ukraine.”
“I really like the new uniform of our team,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
“I can say to those who are alarmed because they cannot afford our internationally recognized borders or our state’s official salute: We will not allow our national symbols to be insulted!”