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Croatia defender Domagoj Vida warned by FIFA over pro-Ukraine comments

FIFA has warned Croatia defender Domagoj Vida about his conduct after he made pro-Ukraine comments after Saturday's World Cup quarterfinal victory over hosts Russia.

Besiktas centre-back Vida, 29, and his former Dynamo Kiev and international teammate Ognjen Vukojevic recorded a video message following Croatia's win in Sochi.

In the video, posted on Facebook by Ukrainian journalist Andrey Shakhov, Vida said: "Glory to Ukraine." The phrase has become a slogan for Ukrainian anti-Russian nationalists following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Vukojevic, who now works as a scout at Dynamo but is with his national team for their World Cup campaign, added: "This victory is for Dinamo and Ukraine."

The video went viral in Russia, prompting a hostile reaction. Later on Saturday night, anti-Croatian chants were heard in the centre of Moscow.

FIFA, the World Cup organisers and world football's governing body, said in a statement: "We can confirm that FIFA's Disciplinary Committee has sent a warning to the player Domagoj Vida due to his video statement following the 2018 FIFA World Cup match between Russia and Croatia."

Vida could have missed the rest of the tournament had FIFA imposed a two-game suspension as set out in its disciplinary code, which prohibits "political slogans in any form" while Article 54 states: "Anyone who provokes the general public during a match will be suspended for two matches and sanctioned with a minimum fine of CHF 5,000 [$5,050]."


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Vida, who scored in the match against Russia -- which ended 2-2 after extra time -- and netted in the resulting penalty shootout, later said of his comment in quotes reported by Russian outlet Championat: "I respect the Russian nation. This was just a joke for my Ukrainian friends. Football is outside politics. I didn't mean anything bad."

He later released a statement via the Croatian Football Federation, saying: "I regret that some media representatives have interpreted our communication in such a manner. It was definitely no political message, but a simple thank you for all the support from Ukraine, where Vukojevic and I spent a number of years.

"Our intention was not to offend anyone. Throughout my career, I have had teammates from many countries and I respect them all, and just as I have many friends in Ukraine, I have a number of them in Russia -- and I am proud of all of them.

"I sincerely hope that this message will not be understood as anything else but an expression of gratitude to our friends in Ukraine for their support -- not in the match against Russia, but during the entire World Cup."

On Sunday, Andrey Pavelko, president of the Ukrainian Football Federation, told Sport Express: "All Ukrainian patriots felt a bit Croatian last night."

Vida played for Dynamo Kiev from 2013 to 2018 before moving to Besiktas in January. Vukojevic retired in 2017 having spent seven years of his playing career in the Ukrainian capital from 2008 to 2015.

Croatia play England in the semifinals in Moscow on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian goalkeeper Mikhail Gotra had his contract with FC Karpaty terminated for cheering on Russia on his Instagram page following their round-of-16 win over Spain.

During the group stage of the World Cup, FIFA fined three Switzerland players for making hand gestures of an "Albanian eagle" symbol to celebrate goals against Serbia and cleared them to continue playing.

Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, who are both of Kosovan-Albanian heritage, received a warning and a fine of 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,100) for unsporting behavior in a judgment by FIFA's disciplinary panel. Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtsteiner was warned and fined 5,000 Swiss francs ($5,050) for joining in the celebration.

In a separate ruling, FIFA fined the Serbian football federation 54,000 Swiss francs ($54,700) for incidents involving its fans at the same game.

Serbia was charged for fans' "display of discriminatory banners and messages by Serbian supporters as well as for throwing objects during the match," FIFA said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Artur Petrosyan is a Russian journalist based in Moscow. Twitter: @arturpetrosyan

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