U.S. Embassy Supports Ukraine's Euro 2020 Kit Featuring Map of Crimea, As Russia Slams Move

The unveiling of Ukraine's Euro 2020 jersey has caused a political stir as the shirt features a map of the country that includes a region Russia annexed in 2014 and slogans used in Ukraine as military greetings.

On Sunday, Andriy Pavelko, the head of the Ukrainian Association of Football (UAF), presented the national team's new jersey on Sunday, less than a week before the start of European Championships.

Yellow with blue inserts—the colors of the Ukrainian flag—the kit is emblazoned with a map of Ukraine which surrounds the UAF emblem.

The white silhouette of Ukraine's borders, however, includes Crimea, a region in the south of Ukraine almost completely surrounded by the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Since annexing the peninsula seven years ago, Moscow has considered the peninsula has part of Russia, despite the fact it is internationally recognized as part of Ukraine.

On the back of the collar, the shirt sports a message proclaiming "Glory to Ukraine!", while a similar message inside the kit reads "Glory to the heroes!".

Both mottos are used as military salute within the Ukrainian Army.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba welcome the national team's uniform.

"I really like our team's new uniform," he tweeted.

"I can tell those who are fussing because they can't stand our internationally recognized borders or our official state greeting: We will not allow our national symbols to be insulted!"

The American and British embassies in Kiev also waded into the controversy, praising the kit on social media.

"Love the new look," a post on the U.S. Embassy's official Twitter account read.

"Glory to Ukraine! #CrimeaisUkraine."

In response to the post, the British Embassy in Kiev replied: "We love it too."

We love it too!

— UK in Ukraine 🇬🇧🇺🇦 (@UKinUkraine) June 7, 2021

Unsurprisingly, reactions from Russia were at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, criticized the jerseys for carrying a nationalistic motto, adding the "Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!" message echoed a Nazi Germany slogan.

Russian parliamentarian Dmitry Svishchev told Russian news agency RIA that the jersey's design was "a political provocation" and that showing a map of Ukraine "which includes a Russian territory is illegal."

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, however, looked to defuse the controversy by suggesting sport and politics should be kept separated.

"Sport is sport, and we need to be above the incitement of hatred between Russians and Ukrainians," he was quoted as saying by Reuters.

In the aftermath of the Ukrainian revolution that ousted then-president Viktor Yanukovich, Russian Armed Forces and pro-Russian separatists intervened in the region, before a Crimea-wide referendum over the reunification with Russia was held

Ukraine had controlled Crimea since 1954, when the Soviet Union transferred control over the region from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic, before the region was given the status of Autonomous Republic of Crimea following the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the reestablishment of Ukraine as an independent state in 1991.

In February 2014, following the Ukrainian revolution that ousted then-president Viktor Yanukovich, Russian Armed Forces and pro-Russian separatists intervened in the region, before a Crimea-wide referendum over the issue of reunification with Russia was held.

Despite being illegal under the Ukrainian constitution, the referendum returned a 90 percent vote in favor of reunification. The United Nations and several Western governments declared the vote illegitimate, but Russia pressed ahead and formally annexed Crimea in March 2014, souring relationship between Moscow and Kiev.

Ukraine opens its Euro 2020 campaign against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Monday, before taking on Austria and North Macedonia in Group C.

Russia, meanwhile, faces Belgium at home in St. Petersburg on Sunday, before playing Denmark and Finland in its two remaining Group B games.

Ukraine Euro 2020 jersey
A detail of a EURO 2020 jersey of the Ukrainian national football team. Ukraine provoked Moscow's ire on June 6 as its football federation unveiled Euro 2020 uniforms that feature Russian-annexed Crimea and nationalist slogans. The uniforms in the blue-and-yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag feature the silhouette of Ukraine that includes Russia-annexed Crimea and the separatist-controlled regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Stringer/AFP/Getty Images