Four people with Russian flags kicked out of the Australian Open by police


MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Four people have been kicked out of the Australian Open after displaying Russian flags – which have been banned from Melbourne Park – and threatening security guards, police and Tennis Australia said Thursday.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said the four had not been charged but were removed from the scene.

The flags, at least one of which included an image of Vladimir Putin, were waved during a gathering outside Rod Laver Arena after Novak Djokovic defeated Russian player Andrey Rublev in straight sets in the quarterfinals of the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year on Wednesday night. .

“A group of people displayed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security after a match on Wednesday night and were ejected. … Players and their teams have been informed and reminded of the event policy on flags and symbols and to avoid any situation that may cause disruption,” Tennis Australian said. in a statement. “We continue to work closely with event security and law enforcement agencies.”

On January 17, the second day of the Australian Open, flags of Russia and Belarus were banned from Melbourne Park after more than one had been brought into the stands by spectators the previous day.

Normally, flags may be displayed during matches at Melbourne Park. But Tennis Australia reversed that policy for the two countries involved in the invasion of Ukraine that began almost a year ago, saying the flags were causing disruption.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus were banned last year from competing in various sporting events, including the men’s World Cup in soccer and Wimbledon, the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup in tennis, because of the war in Ukraine. Russia invaded, with help from Belarus, in February.

Russian and Belarusian players were allowed to play at the Australian Open, French Open and US Open, but as “neutral” athletes, so their nationalities are not recognized in any official schedules or results for the event and their countries’ flags are not shown about television graphics.

At the Australian Open, two women who represent Belarus – Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka – and one man who represents Russia – Karen Khachanov – reached the singles semi-finals.

On Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee said athletes should not be penalized because of their nationality and made it clear that it wants Russians to be able to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics as “neutral” athletes.

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