Ukraine will launch an international campaign to prevent Russian athletes from competing in the 2024 Olympics in Paris, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced on Friday.
Sports Minister Vadim Guttsait previously stated that if Russian and Belarussian athletes compete, Ukraine would not rule out boycotting the Games. They are prohibited in some sports but permitted to compete under a neutral flag in others.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), eager to see them compete again, announced on Wednesday that the Olympic Council of Asia had offered Russian and Belarusian athletes the opportunity to compete in Asia, providing them with a qualification pathway for the Paris Olympics.
“Today we will a start a marathon for fair play aimed at clearing the management of international Olympic structures of hypocrisy as well as (preventing) any attempts to drag representatives of the terrorist state into world sport,” Zelenskiy said in a video address.
“It is obvious that any neutral flag of Russian athletes would be stained with blood … Olympic principles and war are fundamentally opposed to each other.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is eager to include Russian and Belarussian athletes as neutrals in the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday that any attempt to squeeze Moscow out of international sport was “doomed to fail”.
Zelenskiy expressed dissatisfaction with statements made by IOC President Thomas Bach. Last month, Zelenskiy told Bach that he was opposed to Russian athletes competing in the 2024 Summer Olympics under any kind of neutral banner.
Guttsait, writing on Facebook, said if Ukraine failed to ensure the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes, “I do not rule out the possibility that we will boycott and refuse participation in the Olympics.”
Many sports organizations have moved events and suspended Russian teams or athletes since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, while sponsors have terminated contracts in protest of the war.
“Russian strikes have claimed the lives of hundreds of Ukrainians who could have enriched world sport with their talent,” said Zelenskiy.
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