Azerbaijan criticizes flag burning at weightlifting event in Armenia | sports news

Azerbaijan criticizes flag burning at weightlifting event in Armenia |  sports news

Azerbaijan withdraws its athletes from the European Weightlifting Championships after the Azerbaijani flag was burned during the opening ceremony.

Azerbaijan said it had withdrawn its athletes from the European Weightlifting Championships, which was hosted by the capital, Armenia, after the flag-burning incident during the opening ceremony.

Azerbaijan said it had become impossible for its athletes to participate in the tournament and they had already left Armenia to return home via Georgia.

Video of the incident on Saturday showed a man snatching the flag and setting it on fire, prompting a joint angry statement by Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Youth and Sports and the National Olympic Committee.

They condemned it as a “barbaric act” and as evidence of ethnic and racial hatred, saying that Armenia is not qualified to guarantee the safety of athletes and to host international sporting events.

“In conditions when an atmosphere of hatred prevails in Armenia, security is not guaranteed, and normal participation of Azerbaijani athletes in competitions is impossible due to psychological pressure,” the statement said.

She added that “the politicization of sport is totally unacceptable” and urged the European Weightlifting Federation to impose sanctions on Armenia.

Armenia rejected those criticisms, saying that the incident was resolved quickly and without any danger to the competitors in the tournament.

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“The incident that occurred during the opening ceremony, which was resolved very quickly, has nothing to do with guarantees for the safety of the athletes,” she added.

The Russian RIA Novosti news agency said the man responsible had been briefly detained by Armenian police and quoted his lawyer as saying he had been released without charge.

The two countries have had hostile relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, of which they were both part.

Since that time, they have fought two major wars over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous enclave internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but populated primarily by ethnic Armenians. Seven soldiers were killed in action over the past week.

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