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Are white-red-white flags allowed at European Games? Directorate explains

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A screengrab from Belarus 5 TV footage / tvr.by

The list of items banned at the sports venues during the 2nd European Games in Minsk includes ‘flags not registered in accordance with the established procedure.’ This vague provision leaves more questions than answers. For example, is the flag of Andorra, which participates in the Games properly registered in Belarus? What will happen to the fans who will come to the arenas with Belarusian historical white-red-white flags? Will they be allowed to enter or 'business as usual'?

The press office of the European Games’ Directorate told Euroradio off the record that fans could bring white-red-white flags. However, head of communication Aliaksei Bahdanovich did not confirm it in his official commentary. He said:

"In Belarus, there are registered symbols in the framework of the European Games. Only those symbols can be used. If there is a state flag of Belarus, what else can be? We have the state flag of the Republic of Belarus. I am not sure that people can come [with a white-red-white flag]. It is a good question. We have a subcommittee that deals with security and takes decisions on the allowed symbols. Personally, I think they had discussed this one and if things are in line with the laws of Belarus, then everything is treated as legal."

Belarus fans often have their white-red-white flags taken away by the police or security workers at the gates. If someone manages to whisk it through, police officers or stewards ask to put it away. Sometimes, fans with historical flags are detained during or after mass events and end up in courts. It is noteworthy that technically they are tried not for their love to the flag, which was the state flag of Belarus in 1991-1995, but for taking part in an unauthorized action or for public swearing.

The press office says that there are registered symbols for every participating state allowed to use and root with during the games. A total of 50 flags has been registered, including Kosovo. “Diplomacy-wise, our MFA does not recognize Kosovo. But if a Kosovo fan comes with his or her flag, he or she will be allowed to the stands to support his or her team,” Aliaksei Bahdanovich explains.

It is not as clear when it comes to the white-red-white flag. But there is an official way to carry it still. It will be allowed to carry the symbols of registered political parties, including the symbols of the Party of Belarusian Popular Front – the white-red-white flag and the Pahonia (Pursuit) coat-of-arms.

“If the party is registered, then why not? Article 36 in the Law on Physical Culture and Sports explains everything,” says the head of the European Games’ press office. He also promised to get clear answers from the security subcommittee regarding the white-red-white flag because he understands the importance of the issues.

Quote. Law of the Republic of Belarus on Physical Culture and Sports, Article 36:
For the purpose of protecting public order and ensuring public safety during sport mass events at sport venues, persons are not allowed to enter if:

They carry flags not registered in accordance with the established procedure as well as emblems, symbols, posters and other means, the content of which aims to harm public order, the rights and legitimate interests of citizens or is connected with the propaganda of war or extremism.