Ukraine could boycott Olympics if Russians allowed back, says sports minister

Story by Reuters

Reuters  —  Ukraine would not rule out boycotting the Olympic Games if Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to compete in the Paris 2024 Games, its sports minister said.

Plans by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to look at ways for those athletes to return to international competition would be opposed, the minister, Vadim Guttsait, said on social media late on Thursday.

“Our position is unchanged: as long as there is a war in Ukraine, Russian and Belarusian athletes should not be in international competitions,” Guttsait wrote on his Facebook page.

“Work is currently underway on further possible steps and first steps to continue sanctions and prevent Russians and Belarusians from international competitions,” he said.

“If we are not heard, I do not rule out the possibility that we will boycott and refuse participation in the Olympics.”

He later wrote that talks with national sports federations would begin on a possible boycott of the Paris Olympics “in case of allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to international sports arenas.”

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, many sports organizations have moved events and suspended Russian teams or athletes, while sponsors have ended contracts in protests against the war.

Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned in some sports while they are allowed to compete under a neutral flag in others.

The IOC, eager to see them back in international competitions, said on Wednesday the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) had offered Russian and Belarusian athletes the chance to compete in Asia, giving them a qualification pathway for the Paris Olympics.

In a call with IOC President Thomas Bach in December, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy opposed the idea of Russian athletes taking part under any kind of neutral banner in the 2024 Summer Games.

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