PM tells basketball fans to cool it

  • 2007-09-13
  • From wire reports
VILNIUS - Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas has urged Lithuanian basketball fans "not to heat up the atmosphere" after fans became embroiled in a dispute with Spanish police at the European Basketball Championships.

"Everyone has to calm down, I invite [them] not to heat up the atmosphere," Kirkilas said in an interview with Ziniu Radijas radio Sep. 13.

He was responding to reports that disgruntled fans had posted a video online in which they tear up a Spanish flag near the Spanish embassy in Vilnius. On Sep. 10, Spanish police allegedly beat a group of Lithuanian fans after they attempted to enter a stadium with a Lithuanian flag mounted on a flagstaff. Such sticks or poles are not allowed for safety reasons in the arenas hosting the basketball tournament.

According to reports, a police officer tore the Lithuanian flag as he tried to remove the flagstaff. This clearly enraged the Lithuanians and a scuffle broke out.

"While the investigation is going on, politicians do not intervene. But I am sure that the investigation will be objective because many things have been video taped," Kirkilas said.

On Tuesday and Wednesday basketball fans staged protests outside the Spanish embassy in Vilnius. There were no incidents reported, but on Tuesday night a video appeared on the internet, in which young men hacked at a Spanish flag with a knife in an empty street near the embassy. The video was removed within a few hours.

In the tournament itself, the Lithuanian team remains in impressive form, having won five straight matches without a single loss. The next test is against Croatia on Sep. 14. Victory would  see the team booking a place in the semi-finals.