Have a good look at this snazzy t-shirt from Burtons. It’s nice isn’t it? Well, if you like ethnic cleansing that is. What’s that? Well, a clever sod called Paddy Shuttleworth, a student at Bristol University, spotted the unassuming tee in his local Burton menswear shop and was… shall we say… a bit surprised. The Cyrillic writing surrounding the doubleheaded eagle motif is gibberish to most, but to Paddy, a Russian language student, he was able to translate its dubious message. Unfortunately, it read: "We will cleanse Russia of non-Russians!"
"I did mention to the girl as I bought one of the shirts, that it was politically probably quite dangerous," says our Paddy. The shirt’s overall design is an odd jumble of ersatz French logo and Russian iconography, but there is no mistaking the nature of the sentiment, which uses the old word for Russia, "Rus" as a way of distinguishing between ethnic Russians and those with Russian citizenship. "I’ve spoken to a Russian friend," says Mr Shuttleworth, "and she said you would be arrested if you wore it in Russia."
The phrase is pretty typical of those painted on foreigners’ homes by Russian neo-nazis and it also has echoes of the nationalist Rodina (Motherland) party’s notorious 2005 political broadcast, which depicted dark-skinned immigrants throwing watermelon rinds on the ground along with the incendiary slogan "Let’s Clean Moscow of the Rubbish". As a result of the advert Rodina was banned from participating.
Initially Burton seemed surprised by the nasty sentiment lurking on its so-called Girlaun Print Crew shirt.
But yesterday it emerged that the high street chain had been alerted to the gaffe by a member of staff this week. A spokeswoman told the Guardian that the company had bought 6,000 of the T-shirts from one of their regular suppliers last week. At the time Burton was told the slogan translated loosely as "Be proud of Russia."
Believing it was no more than harmless patriotism, bosses decided to distribute the T-shirts to stores across the UK.
However, when they went on display in one of Burton’s London shops a female member of staff spotted the T-shirt and alerted company bosses.
"She is a Russian speaker and she called the brand director saying the T-shirt was inappropriate," said Burton.
The staff member said the symbol on the T-shirt was used by right-wing groups in Russia and that the slogan meant "Keep Russia for Russian Speakers."
"As soon as we realised its significance and that it was not something we would want on our T-shirts it was withdrawn from stores – that was Tuesday.