Azerbaijan weightlifters leave Armenia after flag burned


YEREVAN, Armenia—Azerbaijan withdrew from the European Weightlifting Championships on Saturday in the capital of Armenia a day after a man ran onto the stage at the competition’s opening ceremony, seized an Azerbaijan flag and set it on fire.

Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Youth and Sports said the incident Friday night in Yerevan showed that “when such an atmosphere of hatred reigns in Armenia, security is not ensured, the normal participation of Azerbaijani athletes in competitions is impossible due to psychological pressure.”

The ministry said the athletes and those accompanying them have left Armenia.

Armenian officials said the man who seized the flag was an employee of Armenian public television who was invited to the opening ceremony. He was taken to a police station after the incident but freed without charges.

Animosity between Armenia and Azerbaijan has risen in recent months with the blockade of the only road leading from Armenia to the ethnically Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan.

Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Yerevan in 1994, but a six-week war in 2020 returned much of the area to Azerbaijan’s control.

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