Ukraine-Russia tension, explained – Why Croatia dumped a Coach Assistant during the World Cup

An Instagram video about football goes political
Posted on July 16, 2018, 6:14 pm

When Croatia sent Russia out of the 2018 World Cup, Coach Assistant, Ognjen Vukojevic, posted a video on Instagram dedicating the victory to Ukraine, intending to celebrate with his friends at Dynamo Kyiv, a Ukrainian football team he played for. This was however taken as an offensive political message because of tensions between Russia and Ukraine which has nothing to do with football.

The video featured a Croatian defender Domagoj Vida, joining Vukojevic in dedicating Croatia’s quarter-final win over Russia to Ukraine which was in a state of war with Russia. Vida, who also played with Dynamo shouted ‘Glory to Ukraine’, while Vukojevic added ‘This victory is for Dynamo and Ukraine’.

The Croatian Football Association (HNS) sacked Vukojevic and fined him $15,000.

The phrase ‘Glory to Ukraine’ was used during the 2014 pro-European Union Revolution that sent Ukraine’s President, Viktor Yanukovych out of power.

Struggle for Ukraine

In 2013, what is called the EuroMaidan protest began in Ukraine. Some Ukrainians wanted more ties with the European Union and less ties with Russia. President Viktor Yamukoyych tried to handle the protest but things went out of hand after accusations of Police brutality.

Violence escalated when Yamukoyych signed an anti-protest law. Subsequently, his Prime Minister resigned. By February 2014, 328 of 447 members of the Ukrainian parliament (73% of the MPs) voted to remove Yanukovych on the grounds that he was unable to fulfill his duties. His party disowned him and opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko was released from a prison hospital. That Yulia’s release was a condition for inclusion of Ukraine in the EU made the removal of Yanukovych appeared to many like a move towards a Pro-EU Ukraine. Yanukovych fled to Russia.

It was during this period of fighting Yanukovch’s pro-Russian stance that ‘Glory to Ukraine’ was said to have been used.

Coming in between

Ukraine’s Football Governing Body sent a letter to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), affirming that the phrase was not a discriminatory or far-right sign or symbol, adding that it should not be interpreted as an act of aggression or provocation.

After being relieved of his duty, Vukojevic told Croatian State broadcaster that his intention was to greet his Ukrainian friends, not to give a political statement.

I don’t want to be a burden to our team ahead of the extremely important semi-final match of the World Cup, at the moment when the most needed thing for the national team is peace’.

“However, I do understand that my statements can be differently interpreted. Because of this, I am sorry — and I do apologise to the Russian public, if they perceived my statements like this. I am very proud of Croatia’s achievement at the World Cup and I wish the boys all the best luck in the following games.”

Born on 20th December 1983 in Croatia, Vukojevic was first called up to the Croatian National Football team in August 2007. He made his International debut on 16th October of the same year, in Croatia’s 3-0 win during a friendly match against Slovakia. He also played at the UEFA Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland. On 27 June 2014, Vukojević announced his retirement from the Croatian National Team.

In May 2008, He signed a five-year contract with Dynam Kyiv, a Ukrainian Football team. He made his Ukrainian Premier League debut in July 2008 in Dynamo Kyvi’s 2-0 win of Illichivets. After that, he established himself as a regular at the Club. Vukojevic also helped Dynamo Kyiv reach the UEFA Champion League group stage, appearing in four qualifiers against Drogheda United and Spartak Moscow.

From then, He became irreplaceable for Kyiv Dynamo and promised to be in the team till the end of his career

‘I play for a great club. In Kyiv I have everything I need. I would like to play for Dynamo till the end of my career”.

Although he does not play for Dynamo anymore, he is a scout for the team.

Club honours

Ukraine League winner 2009

Ukraine Super Cup winner 2009, 2011

Ukraine Premier League runner-up 2010, 2011, 2012

Ukraine Premier League bronze medal winner 2013

Ukraine Cup finalist 2011

Ukraine Cup 2014

Croatia League winner 2006, 2007, 2008

Croatia Cup winner 2006, 2008

Croatia Super Cup winner 2006

Separate, together and Separate again

In 1920, Soviet Russia forces overran Ukraine and their relation transitioned from International to internal within the Soviet Union.

The Internal relation later transitioned back to International relations in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. The intergovernmental relations between the two Countries continued but has gone through periods of tension and hostility since 1991.

While the East of Ukraine wants the country to maintain relationship with Russia, the South of Ukraine mostly wants to be identified with the European Union.

Consequently, the protests which erupted in Ukraine in February 2014 were pro-Russian/government in the East and pro-EU/anti-government in the South.

In February 2015, Ukrainian parliament signed a decree suspending its diplomatic ties with Russian Federation. By 2017, it stated that ‘there are no diplomatic relations with Russia in terms of content’.

Ukraine’s Offers Vukojevic a job

Ukraine’s Football Federation has offered a job to Vukojevic and also offered to pay his fine.

We decided to compensate Vukojevic from our personal funds the fine that he will have to pay’.

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