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Russian athletes’ neutral Olympic flags “stained by blood”, Ukraine President says



President Volodymyr Zelensky

KIEV/BERLIN- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has once again called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not to allow Russia to compete at the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

“It is obvious that any neutral flag of Russian athletes is stained by blood,” said the president on social media.

In spite of the invasion of Ukraine, the IOC leadership recently announced its intention to open up opportunities for athletes from Russia and Belarus to participate under a neutral flag.

That is already the case in sports such as tennis, where Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka won the Australian Open on Saturday.

IOC President Thomas Bach said that a “huge majority” want to see athletes from the two countries also at the Olympics.

But Zelensky posted a series of photos of Ukraine’s sports facilities destroyed by the war on his Telegram channel.

Some of the photos show fencers competing amid the ruins of the war —— a pointed message to Bach’s own sports career as a former professional fencer.

In his video released late on Friday, Zelensky repeatedly called on Bach not to allow the “terrorist state of Russia” to participate in the Summer Olympic Games in Paris next year.

He expressed his disappointment at Bach and accused the IOC of hypocrisy.

“There is no such thing as neutrality when a war like this is going on. And we know how often tyrannies try to use sports for their ideological interests,” said Zelensky.

“Russia must stop aggression and terror, and only after that will it be possible to talk about Russian participation in the context of the Olympic movement,” said the Ukrainian leader.

He added that the principles of the Olympics and those of war were “fundamentally opposed to each other.”

Zelensky invited “Bach to Bachmut” to see the destruction in the embattled city in eastern Ukraine.

”……so that you can see with your own eyes that neutrality does not exist.”

“Russian strikes took the lives of hundreds of Ukrainian men and women who could have brought their talents to world sports,” he said.

German Bach told the media that Russian and Belarusian athletes are set to be allowed to compete under a neutral flag.

This will be if they respect the Olympic Charter and existing sanctions concerning the Ukraine war, as well as ending years of doping scandals.

“There is a commitment to the mission of the Olympic Games to unite, to maintain the last bridge still standing between countries and nations and not to encourage further division,” Bach said.

Ukraine has threatened to boycott the 2024 Olympics and the 2026 Winter Games if Russians and Belarusians are allowed to take part.

Bach said: “We want a strong Ukrainian team in Paris and in Milan/Cortina.”

The Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) said in a statement that it supports the IOC’s plan, stating that law-abiding athletes should not be excluded from Games because of their passport.(dpa/NAN)

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