A T-shirt adorned with a slogan used by Russian right-wing groups to promote ethnic cleansing has been sold in one of Britain’s largest menswear stores.

Burton withdrew the T-shirt from all its stores this week when the true translation of the Cyrillic writing was pointed out. The expression translates as: “We will cleanse Russia of all non-Russians!”

The company bought 6,000 of the Girlaun print crew-neck T-shirts from a supplier last week before distributing them to stores throughout Britain. The company said that it thought the slogan meant “Be proud of Russia”.

The slogan on the T-shirt, which sold for £12, was surrounded by a mix of French logos and Russian iconography.

A London staff member who speaks Russian noticed the translation gaffe when the T-shirt went on display and raised concerns with Burton’s brand director. A Burton spokeswoman said the employee revealed that the T-shirt was used by rightwing groups in Russia. The phrase is typical of those painted on the homes of foreigners by neo-Nazis.

“As soon as we realised its significance and that it was not something we would want on our T-shirts it was withdrawn from stores.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,” the spokeswoman said. “On Friday we realised it was still on sale online and it was withdrawn completely.”

Jon Benjamin, chief executive at the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told The Guardian last night that the slogan was “a clear reference to ethnic cleansing”.

Burton is part of billionaire Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia group, which also owns Top-shop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins and Evans. Britain’s seventh richest man, Sir Philip has more than 2,000 shops in the UK and assets worth around £3.6 billion.