According to the sports minister on Tuesday, Ukraine wants to win broad international backing for its request to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in the Paris Olympics as a result of Moscow’s invasion.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has allowed Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in qualifying and is open to including them as neutrals at the 2024 Games.
Vadym Huttsait, Ukraine’s sports minister and a former Olympic champion, told Reuters outside his office in Kyiv, next to a wall covered in photos of sportsmen who died in the conflict that Moscow started a year ago with Belarus’ help.
“It is impossible for us at a time when the full-scale war is going on, when our athletes, our soldiers are defending our homeland, our land, defending their homes, their families, their parents.”
The 51-year-old won an Olympic fencing team gold in 1992, was junior sabre champion in the old Soviet Union four years before that, and coached Ukraine’s winning team at the 2008 Games.
At least 220 Ukrainian athletes and coaches have died in the war, Huttsait said, with over 340 sports facilities damaged or ruined.
“Ukraine will unite with many countries in Europe and the world … and it (Russians competing) will not be allowed,” he added, saying 40 nations had given Ukrainian athletes housing and training assistance abroad during the war.
However, there has been little public support yet from other nations for an outright ban on Russians at Paris.
Russia says its “special military operation” in Ukraine is to protect its own security, denies accusations of atrocities, and says any push to squeeze it out of global sport will fail.
Moscow said on Tuesday it would welcome any IOC moves to allow its athletes to compete in the Olympics, after the world’s top sports body looked at options for their return to international events.
“Certainly, there is some attempt by the International Olympic Committee to allow our athletes to participate in international competitions,” said Stanislav Pozdnyakov, head of Russia’s Olympic Committee.
“Maybe in the future Olympic Games as well, of course, we welcome it entirely,” he added, while cautioning against what he said were “additional conditions” imposed on Russian athletes.