Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 10.07.2018
It’s never good news when sports writers veer into politics. When Russia is involved, it’s a disaster. So it is with the “Glory to Ukraine!” affair that is rocking the FIFA World Cup in Russia. It started as nothing: a friendly little shout-out from a Croatian football player to his fans in Ukraine. It has been turned into a scandal by information warriors pushing Russian hate propaganda against Ukraine. It has been blown out of all proportion by the amplification it has received from ‘Useful Idiot’ sports writers working for Western media.
On July 7, after defeating Russia in a football match, Croatian scout Ognjen Vukojevic and Croatian player Domagoj Vida made a video to celebrate and share with their fans. Ognjen Vukojevic said, “This victory is dedicated to the Dynamo FC and Ukraine.” Domagoj Vida said, “Glory to Ukraine! Come on!” “Slava Ukraini!” (Glory to Ukraine) is now a relatively common greeting in Ukraine. It’s an expression of solidarity. The Croatians were reaching out to their Ukrainian fans. Bringing people together is what international sporting competitions are supposed to be all about, right?
Russian information warriors don’t believe that for a second. Russia is at war with Ukraine, and it is the job of the Kremlin hate propagandists to see to it that every reference to Ukraine is a negative one. They sprang into action immediately. Russian propagandists fabricated a story ascribing the slogan “Glory to Ukraine!” to ultra-right Ukrainian nationalists.
Russia got FIFA to believe its lie about “Glory to Ukraine!” FIFA levied a fine on Ognjen Vukojevic and issued a warning to Domagoj Vida for making a ‘political statement.’ How praising Ukraine is political was never stated by FIFA. FIFA praises World Cup host nation Russia tirelessly, and it does not censure itself for making a political statement.
Russia intimidated the Croatian Football Association. The Croatians have just beaten the host nation and now they are overwhelmed with Russians’s hysteria and hatred, directed against them and against Ukrainians. To protect their players who are still in Russia, the Croatian Football Association sent Ognjen Vukojevic home and issued a frightened apology.
Russia duped sports writers for the Western press. Sticking to football, the journalists who are in Russia to cover the World Cup have been completely ignoring the host nation’s war against Ukraine, its hostage-keeping and torture of Ukrainian loyalists like the filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, and other atrocities of the Putin regime. But after “Glory to Ukraine!” the Kremlin propagandists decided to deviate from the dogma that the World Cup was “just about football” and make it a hate-fest against Ukraine.
The Independent newspaper and website from the United Kingdom was one of the most egregious examples of ‘Useful Idiot’ journalism. Sports writers for The Independent amplified Russian hate propaganda against Ukraine uncritically. In its article, The Independent called the Vukojevic/Vida video “politically-charged.” In fact it isn’t – it was a friendly greeting. (Nothing strange here — since The Independent's owner is an active though covert KGB agent Mr Lebedev — RL)
The Independent said that dedicating Croatia’s victory to Ukraine was “a clear reference to the country’s long-running political conflict with Russia that centres on the disputed territory of Crimea.” Everything about that statement is wrong. The clear reference was to the association the Croatian players have to Kyiv Dynamo FC and therefore Ukraine. The “political conflict with Russia” is that Russia started an unprovoked war against Ukraine in 2014 and is occupying Crimea and part of Donbas. The territory of Crimea is not “disputed” – it is integral Ukrainian territory that was illegally annexed by the Russian Federation. Britain, home of The Independent, has a policy of non-recognition of any change of status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and of the City of Sevastopol away from being sovereign Ukrainian territory.
The Independent says that “Glory to Ukraine!” is a chant that after the 2014 revolution was “since adopted by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists.” This is quite simply idiotic. British ultra-nationalists sing “Rule Britannia” but so does anybody else in the UK. The Independent betrays its pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian bias most when it presents this gross distortion about the use of the slogan “Glory to Ukraine!”
Ukrainians call the events on and around Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in late 2013-early 2014 the Revolution of Dignity. The Independent article calls it the “2014 revolution that drove Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych from power.” That’s an incomplete but correct description. But an earlier and since deleted version of The Independent’s article said that “Glory to Ukraine!” is “a phrase that continues to be deployed by anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalists following the 2014 Maidan coup.” That statement was written in the Kremlin, and not by anyone with a liberal-democratic Western sensibility. First of all, it defines Ukrainian nationalism negatively, as being against Russia, rather than for Ukraine. Secondly, it defines the Revolution of Dignity negatively, as a coup. In fact it was nothing of the kind: the Revolution of Dignity was a positive movement for Ukrainians choosing a European path, choosing a normal life, and choosing transparent and honest politics.
Sports writers for The Independent and other Western news outlets failed journalism by amplifying Russian hate propaganda against Ukraine. The “Glory to Ukraine!” incident highlights the moral depravity of Russia and FIFA going ahead with the World Cup in Russia while Putin is at war and invading Ukraine. It exposes the moral poverty of Western media, because the moment they fell away from the “it’s just about football” dogma they uncritically amplified Russia’s anti-Ukrainian hysteria and hatred.
It’s not about politics, nationalism, war, or Russia – “Glory to Ukraine!” is about Ukraine.