Rio Paralympics 2016: Belarus official banned for carrying Russia flag

Reuters
Russian athletes were banned from competing at the Paralympics after a report revealed a programme of state-sponsored doping

A Belarus official who carried a Russian flag into the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games has been banned from the competition.

The official violated the International Paralympic Committee's (IPC) ban on political gestures.

Belarus' neighbours Russia are banned from the Games following state-sponsored doping.

"A hero has appeared amongst us," said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Ministry.

"This is the person who showed solidarity with people who were disgracefully treated in an inhumane way in not being allowed to compete at the Paralympics," Zakharova told Interfax news agency.

The official, identified by Russian media as Andrei Fomochkin, has had his accreditation for Rio cancelled by the IPC.

IPC head of media Craig Spence said: "I'd like to thank the media for ensuring there was a picture of the individual on Twitter pretty quickly. We managed to locate that individual and confiscate the flag pretty much within 20 minutes of the flag being displayed.

"It's seen as a political protest because he carried a Russian flag when he's in the Belarus delegation, and when you've got the president of the Belarus National Paralympic Committee being so vocal in the media before these Games saying he disagreed with our decision, then it's a pretty easy conclusion that it was a political protest.

"We check all teams before they go out into the stadium at every single Games, so that flag was pretty well hidden on that person because all of the Belarus team was searched before they went out and the flag was somewhere on the person that we didn't notice."

Fomochkin has received support from Belarus for his gesture.

"This was the right thing," Dmitri Mironchik, press secretary for Belarus's Foreign Ministry, told RIA Novosti. "If we need to answer for these gestures, then we will answer."

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