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Police were called 14 times at a match between a Ukrainian and a Russian at the Australian Open

The very first meeting between representatives of Russia and Ukraine in the main scheme of the Australian Open was marred by a scandal that caused headaches for the organizers of the tournament.

Katerina Byndle defeated the Russian Kamila Rakhimova in three sets – 7:5, 6:(8), 6:1, and during the match on one of the small courts in the “Melbourne Park” complex, fans waved a Russian flag.

This was not prohibited, despite the fact that the Russians are playing in the first Grand Slam event of the year with neutral status. However, the tricolor caused the anger of Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia Vasyl Miroshnichenko, who raised a scandal on social networks.

Earlier, the diplomat insisted that the organizers of the Australian Open should not allow representatives of Russia and Belarus, as they did last year at Wimbledon.

However, the Australian Tennis Federation did not take such a step, fearing sanctions from the ATP and WTA.

But after the appearance of the Russian flag, the organizers were accused of “assisting in political propaganda”.

“I categorically condemn the public display of the Russian flag during the match. I call on the Australian Tennis Federation to immediately activate its ‘neutral flag’ policy,” Miroshnichenko wrote on social media.

Officially, the Australian government supports political sanctions against Russia. However, the organizers of the tournament already made a mistake by keeping the designations RUS and BLR in social media posts, which further infuriated Miroshnichenko and his compatriots.

“Initially it was our policy that fans could carry the flags of Russia and Belarus, but they were subsequently banned in order not to disturb other spectators,” the Australian Open’s organizing committee said in a statement. “However, from now on, the Russian and Belarusian flags are completely banned from the stands. As a justification for this decision, there are numerous complaints from fans, who during the match between Bindl and Rakhimova called the police and security services at the stadium 14 times, complaining about the flying Russian flag. The Australian Tennis Federation already does not want to get involved in such disputes.”

In August last year, there was already a similar scandal at the tournament in Cincinnati.

During a match between Russians Anastasia Potapova and Anna Kalinskaya, an American unfurled the Ukrainian flag. The stewards led her out.

Around the same time, at the Tennis Europe children’s tournament in Berlin, the Ukrainian delegation managed to remove the Belarusian flag hanging on the court among others representing the participants of the tournament. This happened despite the fact that at the level of children’s competitions there are no bans on the use of symbols of Russia and Belarus.

In addition, there were numerous incidents of Ukrainian tennis players refusing to shake hands with Russians after matches.

Formally, no claims could be raised against them for non-compliance with the rules of fair play – after all, they were touching opponents’ rackets – a gesture that became widespread during the pandemic.

Given the presence of quite a few Russians and Ukrainians in Melbourne’s men’s and women’s main draw, there is likely to be more political tension.

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