State Television Taunts Swedes Before Football Quarterfinals

State television taunted Sweden with past military victories on Wednesday before the two countries vied for a place in the quarterfinals of Euro 2008, the continent's most prestigious football tournament.

Vesti-24, the government's cable channel, played a commercial every half-hour today using Soviet-era movie footage of Russian soldiers killing Swedes during Peter the Great's victory over Charles XII in 1709 and Alexander Nevsky's defeat of invaders in 1240. Each scene was followed by a scorecard reading "Russia 1, Sweden 0" and accompanied by the theme music from the movie "Gladiator."

"It's part of a revival of Russian nationalism," said Yevgeny Volk, a Moscow-based analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a U.S. research group. "The advertisement reflects this Russian mentality, which still interprets the military as a major factor in the country's international image."

The Swedish Embassy in Moscow said Russia "can run whatever they like" on television. "I don't know of any Swedish channels showing all the battles that Sweden has won against Russia, but if they did there would be many of them," an embassy spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity.

The ad shows Prince Alexander of Novgorod's victory over the Swedes in 1240, after fighting off their attempt to take control of a trading port.

After splashing "1-0" across the screen, the montage moves to shots of a triumphant Peter the Great after his army slayed thousands of Swedish troops in the Battle of Poltava. Russia's 3-2 win against Sweden in the semifinals of the world hockey championship last month is also shown.

Komsomolskaya Pravda sent reporters to the site of the Poltava battle in Ukraine, where they blessed a football at the feet of a statue of Peter the Great and then ceremoniously kicked it in the direction of Sweden, according to a report in the newspaper today.