Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday redoubled his efforts to stop Russian athletes from participating the 2024 Olympics, saying they would try to justify the war against Ukraine if allowed to compete.
Zelenskyy said Friday that Ukraine would launch an international campaign to keep Russia out of the summer games, which will be held in Paris.
"If Russian athletes appear at international competitions, it is only a matter of time before they start justifying Russia's aggression and using the symbols of terror," he said in a Saturday evening video address.
Ukraine, he said, had written to major international sports federations asking them to clarify their position on what he called the International Olympic Committee's desire to "open up sports to the propaganda influence of the terrorist state."
The IOC said Wednesday the Olympic Council of Asia had offered Russian and Belarusian athletes the chance to compete in Asia, giving them a qualification pathway for the 2024 Olympics. Ukraine says it could boycott the Games if Russian and Belarusian athletes take part.
Earlier on Saturday, Zelenskyy aide Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter that Russian athletes would effectively be "ambassadors of death" if allowed to compete and accused the IOC of promoting what he called "the Russian anti-human policy."
Russia is actively engaged in war crimes, Zelenskyy argued, asking: Would Germany in the middle of World War II be asked to participate in the Olympics?
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Friday any attempt to squeeze Moscow out of international sport was "doomed to fail."
There are some rules for athletes from Russia and Belarus, should they end up being permitted to compete, The New York Times.
They would not be allowed to wear uniforms that have their countries' names or colors, and no government or state officials from their countries will be permitted to attend the Games.
Further, any athlete from either country must not have actively supported the war.
Zelenskyy, meanwhile, told French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week that Russia's athletes have "no place" would be permitted to attend. To gain eligibility, Russian and Belarusian athletes must not have actively supported the war in Ukraine and must have passed antidoping protocols.
Ukraine, meanwhile, has some support from its allies in its call for a Russia ban, with German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser calling the I.O.C.'s position the "wrong path."
British culture secretary Michelle Donelan said in a statement the committee's position is "a world away from the reality of war being felt by the Ukrainian people."
Hans Natorp, the president of Denmark's National Olympic Committee, has also said his country was strongly opposed to allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete.
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it would support the I.O.C.'s stance despite the vehement Ukrainian opposition.
Newsmax writer Sandy Fitzgerald contributed to this Reuters report.
© 2023 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.