Victorian police detained four spectators for questioning at the Australian Open after they unfurled Russian flags featuring Vladimir Putin’s face.
Victorian police detained four spectators for questioning at the Australian Open after they unfurled Russian flags featuring Vladimir Putin’s face during the tournament on Wednesday.
The alleged incident happened shortly after Russia’s Andrey Rublev was beaten by Novak Djokovic in the men’s quarter-finals.
Although Russian and Belarusian players have been allowed to compete at the first grand slam of the year, there are strict rules around their participation,
They cannot compete as representatives of their countries so are classified as independent neutrals and their supporters are banned from carrying flags or Putin’s Z symbol or chanting pro-Russian songs.
But authorities were forced to act after a Russian flag was spotted in the crowd last week and now the cops have been called in after a second unsavoury incident.
“Four people in the crowd leaving the stadium revealed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards,” Tennis Australia said in a statement.
“Victoria Police intervened and are continuing to question them.
“The comfort and safety of everyone is our priority and we work closely with security and authorities.”
Djokovic, who has complained to officials about a number of spectators over the past week – spoke to the chair umpire during his match against Rublev, after being annoyed by some comments being made by Russian supporters at Rod Laver Arena.
“If somebody steps over the line and starts making comments that are not related to support of the other player, he just wants to provoke and insult, then stepping over the line is something that I react to,” Djokovic said.
“Maybe not first time, second time, but after that yes. Then I ask the chair umpire to react.
“After that, I heard him, but he was supporting Rublev. He was not making any bad comments till the end of the match, so I didn‘t have any complaints about that further on.”
The issue around Russian flags at the tournament has been heating up and is only getting hotter as the finals start with Russian players in contention for both the men’s and women’s titles.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia called on tennis officials to take action after a Russian flag appeared in the crowd at the Australian Open.
Russia’s embassy hit back at Tennis Australia’s flag ban, calling it “another example of unacceptable politicisation of sports”