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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has decided to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals in the 2024 Paris Olympics, which has sparked strong criticism from Ukrainian officials.

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According to the IOC, athletes from these countries can participate without national flags, emblems, or anthems and must not actively support the war in Ukraine. This decision has been met with condemnation from Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who expressed his views on social media, stating, “The IOC essentially gave Russia the green light to weaponize the Olympics.”

Kuleba added, “Because the Kremlin will use every Russian and Belarusian athlete as a weapon in its propaganda warfare. I urge all partners to strongly condemn this shameful decision, which undermines Olympic principles.” This decision reverses the initial ban on these athletes competing internationally following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Eight Russian and three Belarusian athletes have qualified for the Summer Games among 4,600 athletes globally. The IOC’s conditions restrict their participation in individual sports, excluding team events. Additionally, no government officials from Russia or Belarus will be invited to or accredited for the Paris Games. Despite allowing them to participate, Russia’s Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin criticized the decision as “discriminatory.”

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This comes as Ukrainian athletes and officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have been vocal in their appeals to the IOC for a complete exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes. Ukrainian Sports Minister Matviy Bidnyi, in an interview with AFP, expressed concerns about the IOC’s stance, saying, Obviously, any neutral flag of Russian athletes is stained with blood.”


Bidnyi also highlighted that relinquishing their Russian passport is the only way for athletes to demonstrate their commitment to Olympic values. This decision comes amidst ongoing tensions and amidst accusations by Russian President Vladimir Putin of the IOC engaging in “ethnic discrimination.”


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