Police question Australian Open fans over Putin’s flag

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Four Australian Open spectators, including a man holding a Russian flag with Vladimir Putin’s face on it, are questioned by Victoria police after allegedly threatening security at Melbourne Park.

A group of fans gathered on the steps outside Rod Laver Arena and Margaret Court Arena on Wednesday night and chanted pro-Russian chants, with several holding or carrying Russian flags.

The fans chanted “Russia, Serbia” after Serbian star Novak Djokovic beat Russian Andrey Rublev in straight sets.

Among them was the man who held up the flag of Russian President Putin while wearing a T-shirt with the pro-Ukraine war ‘Z’ symbol.

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Another man was previously pictured wearing a Z symbol T-shirt at Rod Laver Arena during the game.

Past and current Russian flags, the flag of the Russian eagle, Belarusian flags and items of clothing with the Z symbol are prohibited items in Melbourne Park.

“Four people in the crowd leaving the stadium unveiled inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards,” said a Tennis Australia spokesperson.

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“Victoria police intervened and are continuing to question them.

“Everyone’s comfort and safety is our priority and we are working closely with security and authorities.”

TA had initially allowed spectators to bring Russian and Belarusian banners into Melbourne Park as long as they did not cause a disturbance.

But the policy was reversed on Tuesday morning after a Russian flag was displayed prominently on the pitch during a game involving Ukrainian player Kateryna Baindl.

That rule has been broken several times, but Wednesday night’s incident was clearly the most egregious.

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Russian and Belarusian players, such as Russians Rublev and Karen Khachanov and star Belarusians Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka, are allowed to compete in Melbourne, but must do so under a neutral flag.

They were banned from participating in Wimbledon by the All England club last year in response to Ukraine’s ongoing invasion of Russia.

Russia is Belarus’ largest and most important economic and political partner.

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