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Belarusian Official Booted From Paralympics After Carrying Russian Flag

  • RFE/RL

Andrey Fomachkin carries a Russian flag during the opening ceremonies of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on September 7.

Andrey Fomachkin carries a Russian flag during the opening ceremonies of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on September 7.

An official with the Belarusian Sports Ministry has been kicked out of the Paralympics Games in Brazil after he marched in the opening ceremonies carrying a Russian flag.

The International Paralympic Committee announced the decision on September 8 against Andrey Fomachkin, one day after Fomachkin was seen carrying the Russian tricolor during the Paralympic Games' opening day event.

The committee had already banned Russia from the Games after reports by anti-doping regulators detailed a vast state-sponsored doping system that reportedly included both Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

Craig Spence, a spokesman for the committee, said Fomachkin was apparently a guest of the Belarusian Paralympic Committee, rather than a member.

He said the Belarusian delegation was warned about staging political protests.

Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dzmitry Mironchyk called the move "manly behavior." And Natalya Eismont, a spokeswoman for Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, suggested to the Associated Press that it was a gesture done with government sanction, in support of Russia's banned Paralympic team.

In Moscow, meanwhile, Russian officials voiced thanks to Belarus, and to Fomachkin, for the flag stunt.

"Today we have a hero," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. "This is a man who brought the Russian flag to the opening of the Paralympic Games in Rio, showing solidarity with those who have been barred from the Rio Paralympics in a mean and inhuman way."

"What the Belarusian Paralympians have done deserves admiration," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

With reporting by AP
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