Novak Djokovic's father Srdjan seen with pro-Russian demonstrators

The parents of Serbia
The parents of Serbia's Novak Djokovic, father Srdjan Djokovic and mother Dijana Djokovic, after he beat Russia's Andrey Rublev in the men's singles quarter-final at the Australian Open on Wednesday - David Gray/AFP/Getty Images  

Novak Djokovic's father Srdjan has been seen on camera with Vladimir Putin supporters at the Australian Open.

The tournament was disrupted on Wednesday night by pro-Russian demonstrators who chanted "Russia, Serbia, Russia, Serbia" and held up a flag emblazoned with Putin's face.

A video posted on YouTube shows Srdjan with the ringleader of the group on the steps of Rod Laver Arena, shortly after his son Novak had defeated Russia's Andrey Rublev in straight sets.

This second man, wearing a T-shirt decorated with the pro-war "Z" emblem, introduces the video by speaking into the camera and saying "Brother Alexander Zalostanov, we sent you our greetings from Melbourne Australia to our brothers in Moscow."

Srdjan then says what seems to be "živjeli Russiyani" - a Serbo-Croat phrase which translates to, "Long live the Russians." The first speaker repeats the phrase, while Srdjan moves on, probably to join his son and the rest of the Djokovic team in the player area underneath the stadium.

The YouTube video:

Alexander Zalostanov is the president of the Night Wolves - a motorcycle gang based in Moscow who have been described as "Putin's Angels". As the film moves on, we see the same main speaker send greetings to "our brothers in Donbas and Luhansk", and to the International Brigade "Pyatnashka".

This last group is an international militia which fights on behalf of the Russians and contains a strong Serbian element.

On Wednesday night, Tennis Australia put out a statement that said: "Four people in the crowd leaving the stadium revealed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards.

"Victoria Police intervened and are continuing to question them. The comfort and safety of everyone is our priority and we work closely with security and authorities."

There were at least four people carrying pro-Russian regalia within Melbourne Park on Wednesday night, even though Russian flags had been banned by Tennis Australia after one was flown during a first-round match between Ukraine's Kateryna Baindl and Russia's Kamilla Rakhimova.

The four included the main speaker mentioned above, another man with a Russian flag, a man holding a Night Wolves flag, and the fan inside the stadium who removed a white shirt emblazoned with Djokovic's name to reveal a black T-shirt underneath with the "Z" emblem on it.

An unwitting Djokovic later signed this man's white shirt as he did the rounds of the Serbian fans within the stadium at the end of his 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Rublev.

The video of Djokovic's father was posted on the YouTube channel of Simeon Boikov, a pro-Russian activist who is being sought by Australian police after allegedly assaulting a 76-year-old man at a rally for Ukraine in Sydney.

The video also shows Tennis Australia's security guards eventually arriving at the steps where the demonstrators are holding their impromptu rally. The guards do not interevene as perhaps 10 fans chant, "We love Putin."

In a video posted on Tuesday, Boikov - who goes by the handle of "The Aussie Cossack" - warned that there would be pro-Russian activity at the Australian Open.

"Djokovic plays Andrey Rublev," Boikov said. "I hereby appeal or instruct everyone to get down there. I can confirm that we've got some surprises.

"Tennis Australia brace yourselves… for fans, for people who love tennis, if you know what I mean. I've got to word it that way or they'll get me for incitement. We've got a lot of serious fans in Melbourne heading down.

"This is about honour and dignity now. This is an attack on honour and dignity. This has got nothing to do with the war. This is an attack on freedom in Australia. This is discrimination. This is racism. It's illegal to ban people's flags.

"The Russian empire has had its flag banned. Well guess what, Tennis Australia? Good luck when the empire strikes back."

The Ukrainian ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, has condemned Wednesday night's scenes. "It's a full package," said Myroshnychenko. "Among the Serbian flags, there is a Russian flag, Putin, Z-symbol or chanting pro-Russian songs. It's such a disgrace."

Meanwhile the former Ukrainian player Alex Dolgopolov, who is serving with the Ukrainian army, tweeted the image of the man with the two shirts, accompanied by the message "This guy will get banned for life, at least for all Australian events, right?" Dolgopolov then posted another short video of the demonstrators and said, "Seems he was not the only one. Tennis Australia, what's going on there?"

Representatives for Novak Djokovic have been contacted for comment.


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