Novak Djokovic’s father has been filmed posing with fans brandishing pro-Russian flags at the Australian Open in scenes Ukraine’s ambassador slammed as “a disgrace”.
The diplomat’s comment on Thursday came a day after the Serbian player had just booked his place in the tournament semifinal with a straight-set thumping of Russian opponent Andrey Rublev in Rod Laver Arena.
After the match a group of fans unfurled Russian flags near the stadium, including one featuring President Vladimir Putin’s face, chanting pro-Russian slogans.
A Victoria police spokeswoman said the four people were kicked out of the tournament for revealing “inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards”. Police were called and they were ejected from Melbourne Park.
“Players and their teams have been briefed and reminded of the event policy regarding flags and symbols and to avoid any situation that has the potential to disrupt,” Tennis Australia 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 from Russia and Belarus were banned from Melbourne Park after they were brought into the stands by spectators the day before. Normally, flags can 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 nearly a year ago, saying the flags were causing disruption.
A video later posted to a pro-Russian Australian YouTube account showed Djokovic’s father Srdjan posing with a man holding a flag with Putin’s picture.
It was captioned: “Novak Djokovic’s father makes bold political statement.”
This is…quite a mess for the #AusOpen, to say the least.
Srdjan Djokovic posing with the pro-Putin rally last night just outside Rod Laver Arena.
The levels of security breakdowns that allowed for this are staggering.
Story/video via @jamesgraysport:https://t.co/L4gtaKKNP6 pic.twitter.com/qnOx3MGYqB
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 26, 2023
Serbian tennis reporters confirmed it was Djokovic’s father and the Melbourne Age newspaper reported he said in Serbian: “Long live Russia.”
Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, said the flag-waving was “shameful”.
“It’s a full package. Among the Serbian flags, there is: a Russian flag, Putin, Z-symbol, so-called Donetsk People’s Republic flag,” he tweeted with a link to the video.
It’s a full package. Among the Serbian flags, there is: a Russian flag, Putin, Z-symbol, so-called Donetsk People’s Republic flag. It’s such a disgrace…@TennisAustralia @AustralianOpen https://t.co/wZoZontcEj
— Vasyl Myroshnychenko (@AmbVasyl) January 25, 2023
Another man was photographed by AFP news agency inside the stadium during Djokovic’s match with a pro-war “Z” symbol T-shirt – associated with support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian and Belarusian players have normally competed under a neutral white flag as independents, as is the case at the Australian Open.
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