The International Paralympics Committee (IPC) has decided to disqualify a member of the Belarusian delegation to the games in Brazil after he carried the flag of Russia, the country banned altogether from the games, in the opening ceremony.
The IPC said in a statement on Thursday that the Belarusian Sports Ministry employee, identified by Russian media as Andrei Fomochkin, who marched with a Russian tricolor a day earlier in Rio was booted out of the games.
“The individual was quickly identified during the ceremony as a guest of the Belarus secretary general who should not have been part of the marching party in the first place,” the IPC said.
Russia was banned from this year’s Paralympics after IPC said in August that it had obtained pieces of evidence showing that doping cases involving Russian Paralympians were of an state-sponsored nature and the Russian government was directly involved in the system.
Reports said the Russian flag was confiscated after Fomochkin, who has been identified as the director of the republican center of Olympic training for athletics in Belarus, carried it for some time.
Officials in Belarus defended Fomochkin's move, saying the move was deliberate and was meant to highlight the absence of Russians in the games.
“We stand with the Russian Paralympians,” Natalya Eismont, a spokeswoman for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, said, rejecting reports that the move had been spontaneous. She said the incident reflected “the position of the state, as well as the position of the country's President and the head of our Paralympic Committee.”
Other officials had reportedly said earlier that the move was not planned in advance, calling it as an “impulse of the soul.”
However, the IPC said carrying the flag by the Belarusian official was a political gesture and not tolerated under Paralympics rules.
Craig Spence, the director of media and communications at the IPC, said on his Twitter page that the body had cancelled the accreditation of Fomochkin.
Russians hailed the move with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling it “admirable.” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also said that Fomochkin was a hero. Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who has fiercely criticized the IPC ban on the Russian team in Rio as politically motivated, said Fomochkin's decision to carry the flag was “courageous.”