Political battle lines: Qarabag’s military salute censored by UEFA

October 23 – Players and officials from Azeri club Qarabag have been reprimanded by UEFA for performing a military salute during their Europa League qualifying match away to Legia Warsaw on October 1.

UEFA said that the gesture was “considered as inappropriate given the specific political context at the time of the match.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan are involved in an age-old bitter conflict over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, with hundreds killed since fighting resumed last month.

UEFA listed 13 players and 14 officials who gave the salute. Qarabag won the match 3-0 to reach the group stage, playing their first game yesterday against Maccabi Tel Aviv in a 1-0 defeat.

On Tuesday, UEFA banned any club or national team matches in its competitions from taking place in either country until further notice.

Azerbaijan is one of 12 countries due to co-host the Euro 2020 tournament, which will take place in June and July. So far the conflict has not led to UEFA stripping Baku of hosting rights but the longer the fighting goes on, the greater the pressure.

Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenian forces since 1994. A separatist war started after the breakup of the Soviet Union three years earlier.

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