At the Australian Open on Wednesday night, Srdjan Djokovic, the father of Novak Djokovic, was seen taking pictures with admirers of Vladimir Putin.
After yelling pro-Russian and pro-Putin slogans on the stairs of Rod Laver Arena and waving multiple Russian flags, including one with Putin’s face on it, four men were removed from Melbourne Park by Victoria police on Wednesday.
Srdjan Djokovic posed for selfies with a fan holding a Russian flag with a huge image of Putin’s face outside Rod Laver Arena before the four Kremlin supporters were removed.
The guy was wearing a “Z” sign shirt and was holding a Russian flag.
As reported by the Guardian, Srdjan Djokovic can be heard saying “zivjeli Russiyani,” or “long live Russian citizens,” before walking away in the YouTube footage that was uploaded by Aussie Cossack.
Russiyani is Russian for “citizens of Russia,” and “zivjeli” is the toasting phrase “cheers” in Serbian and Croatian.
The man Djokovic is seen with wore a shirt bearing the logo of the Russian motorcycle gang the Night Wolves, and he begins his video message by wishing the group’s global leader, Alexander Zaldostanov, a warm welcome from Melbourne.
Zaldostanov is seen as a close ally of Putin, who apparently faced sanctions from the EU last year, along with the club.
Despite past winners of the honour including convicted Serb war criminals, Djokovic faced criticism in 2020 when he accepted it for his work promoting tennis in the region.
Tennis Australia issued a warning to players and their personnel not to interfere with banned flags after the Djokovic photographs were made public.
“A small group of people displayed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards following a match on Wednesday night and were evicted. One patron is now assisting police with unrelated matters,” according to a statement from Tennis Australia.
Vasyl Myroshnychenko, the Ukrainian ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, tweeted that the Russian supporters at the open were “a full package.”
“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…”.