Australian Open spectators supporting Russian invasion questioned by police | Australian Open 2023

Several Australian Open spectators were questioned by Victoria police after they unfurled flags in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and then threatened security guards after the men’s quarter-final match between Andrey Rublev from Russia and Novak Djokovic.

During the match, which ended in a comfortable victory for Djokovic over Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, a spectator removed one of his jerseys to reveal a black T-shirt underneath with a “Z” on it. Russian forces used the letter “Z” as an identifying symbol on their vehicles in Ukraine after the invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”. Supporters of the invasion also used the sign. Although security was photographed talking to the spectator, he appeared to stay in his seat until the end of the game.

After the game, fans had gathered on the stairs outside Rod Laver Arena. As some started to leave, a small group of people stood on the steps under the arena and unfurled Russian flags, including a Russian flag with a large picture of Vladimir Putin’s face, while chanting in support of Russia. Another man wore a black hoodie with a ‘Z’ referencing Russia’s war symbol.

According to Tennis Australia, four men were questioned by Victoria police after threatening security officers.

“Four people in the crowd leaving the stadium revealed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards,” a statement from Tennis Australia said. “Victoria Police have intervened and are continuing to question them. Everyone’s comfort and safety is our priority and we work closely with security and the authorities.

Just walked through Melbourne Park after the drop off and a group of people were standing on the steps of the Rod Laver Arena waving a flag with Vladimir Putin’s face on it and chanting in favor of Russia.

— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) January 25, 2023

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a recurring issue at the Australian Open, where Russian and Belarus players compete under a neutral flag. During the first-round match between Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl and Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova on January 16, spectators unfurled a Russian flag in the crowd.

At the start of the tournament, spectators were allowed to bring all flags, but after the incident the organizers reversed the decision and banned all Russian flags, Imperial Russian flags and items bearing the “Z” symbol. At certain entrances to the site, security guards received brochures with a growing list of various banned Russian flags.

Meanwhile, Wimbledon has faced fresh calls to reverse its decision to ban Russian and Belarus players. Wimbledon is expected to meet in the coming months to decide whether or not to lift the ban on Russian players for this year’s tournament.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Billie Jean King said she thinks Russian and Belarusian players should be able to compete and that players should receive ranking points at Wimbledon: “Just let them play and get their money “, she said.

“The last information I heard was, maybe a week ago, that the announcement would be in a few weeks. We are all waiting. Hopefully we can play. I would like, I would like and I would like to play,” Rublev said on Wednesday.

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