Pressure must be exerted on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to prevent Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in international competitions.
Vadym Guttsait, Minister of Youth and Sports and President of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine, said this on national television, Ukrinform reports.
"We must all put pressure on the International Olympic Committee to prevent the Russians and Belarusians from competing under a neutral or any other flag under which they try to return to international sport," Guttsait said.
He recalled that a year ago, the IOC condemned Russia's full-scale aggression against Ukraine and issued a recommendation to ban athletes from Russia and Belarus from participating in international competitions.
Instead, on January 25 this year, the IOC made a statement proposing to consider the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to competitions. Guttsait recalled that last week, the International Fencing Federation voted for the return of Russian and Belarusian fencers to the competition. According to him, African and Arab countries expressed their support, whereas European countries voted against the decision.
"We see that in international federations, where there is Russian money, Russian support, where there are presidents from Russia, people who have worked for many years in the federations, they are trying to hold this vote for the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes," Guttsait said.
He added that a meeting of the IOC Executive Board had been postponed from February to March 2023 due to the fact that many countries protested the attempt to return athletes from Russia and Belarus to international competitions during Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Commenting on Ukraine's boycott of the Olympic Games in case athletes from Russia and Belarus return to international competitions, Guttsait said this would be an extreme measure.
"The adoption of this decision will only be collegial, only with federations, well-known athletes... This is a difficult issue, but over time we will have to decide on whether to participate or not," the minister said.
Russian and Belarusian athletes were suspended from international competitions in response to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In January 2023, the IOC proposed allowing them to compete if they did not speak out in favor of the war in Ukraine and do not use doping.
In February 2023, 35 countries said that Russia and Belarus should not return to international competitions until Putin ends his war.
Ukraine's sports federations signed a joint letter to the IOC calling on the organization to prevent Russians and Belarusians from competing.
The next Olympic Games will be held in Paris in 2024.