Russian flag swap at hockey championship angers officials

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Russian officials have expressed dissatisfaction by the Riga City Council's decision to replace the Russian Federation flag against the Russian Olympic Committee's flag on the advertising stands of the World Hockey Championship, Latvian Television reported May 26.

The official representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zaharova, warned that Latvia could be included on the list of countries not friendly to Russia.

Currently, there are only two countries officially on the list: the long-standing rival US and Czech Republic, following a scandal sparked by news of the alleged involvement of Russian special services in the bombings in the Czech ammunition warehouse in 2014.

The change of Russian flags in Riga took place after outrage in Latvian media about the presence of a Russian flag between the flags of the Member States of the World Hockey Championship, as the Russian Olympic team's hockey professionals and not the Russian State teams are formally involved in the championship due to Russia being disqualified because of the doping scandal in 2019.

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday that the Riga leadership's action was “a blatant disrespect for the symbols of the Russian state, and this disrespectful manipulation is fully part of the openly russophobic policy of the elite in Latvia.”

“It looks like our Latvian neighbors are trying to strengthen their positions in the ranks of Russia's unfriendly countries with all their might. If it is a deliberate choice of the Latvian side, we will draw conclusions,” said Zaharova.

The Latvian ambassador to Russia Māris Riekstiņš has expressed confusion about the statements made by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The flag of the Russian Olympic Committee in Riga is a disrespect and unfriendly gesture? This is the flag of YOUR Olympic Committee, under which YOUR athletes take part in many competitions. Let's do without labeling,” said Riekstiņš.

 

 

The State Council's deputy, Vitaly Milonov, from the ruling party “United Russia”, also expressed an opinion.

“If they behave like this, we could change the flag at the Latvian Embassy in Moscow and raise the Latvian PSR flag,” the agency “RIA Novosti” quoted. He calls for Latvia to be referred to as the “Latvian PSR” until the Russian flag is in place.

Milonov also calls for a popular 'punishment' method used since the 90s by banning the import of sprats produced in Latvia.

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