MOSCOW -- After a heated U.S.-Russia hockey match at the Sochi Olympics on Saturday, many Russian spectators have decided the cold war is back -- and not just on the ice.
Demonstrators gathered in Moscow on Monday to protest a official's call disallowing a goal by Russia late in regulation of a game ultimately won by the U.S. in a penalty shootout.
The protesters, organized by a Kremlin party youth group, donned Russian hockey jerseys and shouted, "Make soap out of the ref!" -- a common expression among Russian soccer fans.
Wielding a banner with a photograph of the American official, Brad Meier, many of the protesters used cheese graters to grate soap into buckets.
The goal, which would have given Russia a 3-2 lead with less than five minutes left in the third period, was disallowed after officials ruled the net had come loose from the ice before the goal was scored. Russian fans, who had leapt to their feet in celebration, howled with rage as the call was announced.
The supervisor of officials for the International Ice Hockey Federation, Konstantin Komissarov, confirmed the ruling made by the on-ice officials was correct and that video review had been properly used to make the call. But that hasn't mollified Russian spectators, who in a rare unifying moment have come together from both ends of the political spectrum to air their grievances -- and their conspiracy theories.
After the call was made, commentators on state television at first seemed unable to overcome their shock, shouting "How can this be so?!" They spent much of the rest of the game muttering resignedly about Meier's nationality.
Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of the country's most popular newspapers, carried a photograph of U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick -- a red circle drawn around his hand, which appears to be pushing one goal post backward -- beneath the headline: "An American referee and the puppet international federation deprived us of a deserved victory."
One state-owned channel ran an hour-long talk show dedicated to the disallowed goal.
"Judges don't have nationality?!" Alexei Pushkov, a Kremlin-connected member of parliament, fumed on Twitter. "How interesting. And how come they didn't appoint a referee from Russia, but an American?"
Even Russia's liberals joined in the fight.
"I agree with everything said about the referee," wrote corruption blogger and opposition activist Alexei Navalny. One liberal website, Lenta.ru, wrote that the "Jewish masonry" was clearly involved in the call, making a joking reference to Soviet-era conspiracy theories about the West.
President Vladimir Putin, who was one of the unhappy fans at the Sochi rink on Saturday, told Russian state news agencies Monday that the game "should have been stopped" if the goal was out of place but asked for fans to show sportsmanship.
"Even if the judge was wrong, we mustn't stick labels on anybody," he said. "We can't forget that sport takes courage, but also luck."
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