Russian tennis star Khachanov defends Nagorno-Karabakh messages

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Pro-Armenian sentiment expressed throughout the Australian Open sparks a criticism from Azerbaijan tennis officers.

Karen Khachanov has defended himself after his help on the Australian Open for the contested Armenian enclave Nagorno-Karabakh sparked a strongly worded criticism from Azerbaijan tennis officers.

The Russian, who has Armenian roots, wrote a message on a tv digital camera lens after his fourth-round win at Melbourne Park, which stated: “Keep believing until the very end. Artsakh, hold on!”

In a earlier spherical, the participant, who reached the semifinals on Tuesday, wrote: “Artsakh stay strong.”

The ethnically Armenian space of Nagorno-Karabakh, recognized by separatists because the Artsakh Republic, broke away from Azerbaijan with Armenian help after a bloody post-Soviet ethnic battle within the early 1990s.

In 2020, Azerbaijan launched a second battle within the area, efficiently successful again a part of the territory managed by the Armenian-backed separatists.

In a letter posted on-line, the Azerbaijan Tennis Federation stated it has protested to Australian Open organisers and the International Tennis Federation.

It demanded Khachanov be “punished” with “harsh measures”.

“Writing heartfelt wishes on the camera lens is a kind of tradition in tennis, but Khachanov abused this, using it in his dirty plans,” it stated.

Khachanov stated he was not conscious of the letter and had not been instructed to cease his post-match messages “so far”.

“I say many times I have Armenian roots,” he instructed reporters at Melbourne Park after his quarterfinal victory on Tuesday. “From my father’s side, from my grandfather’s side, even from my mom’s side. I’m half Armenian … to be honest. I don’t want to go deeper than that, and I just wanted to show strength and support to my people. That’s it.”

The Australian Open has taken a stance on political points throughout this event, banning Russian flags after one was hung subsequent to a court docket the place a Ukrainian participant was taking part in.

Russian and Belarusian gamers have been banned from Wimbledon final 12 months after the invasion of Ukraine however are capable of compete as particular person athletes with out nationwide affiliation on the Australian Open.

Belarus is getting used as a key staging floor for Russia’s battle in Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special operation”.