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Ukraine rejects idea of Olympic 'neutral flag' for Russia

December 15, 2022

Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy told IOC chief Thomas Bach that Kyiv wanted Russia's "complete isolation." The US has backed exploring the possibility of Russian and Belarusian athletes competing under a neutral banner.

IOC chief Thomas Bach (left) shakes hands with Zelenskyy
IOC chief Bach visited Kyiv in JulyImage: SvenSimon/ThePresidentialOfficeUkraine/picture alliance

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday rejected the participation of Russian athletes in the next Olympics in any capacity. 

Zelenskyy's remarks came after he spoke with International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach.

Bach said last week that the status of Russian and Belarusian athletes' participation at the 2024 Paris Games was still unclear.

In February, the IOC issued guidance to sports governing bodies to remove athletes from Russia and Belarus from competition over Moscow's war in Ukraine.

What did Zelenskyy say?

Zelenskyy said Kyiv was disappointed by the idea that Moscow's or Minsk's athletes could compete even under a neutral flag.

"One cannot try to be neutral when the foundations of peaceful life are being destroyed and universal human values are being ignored," he said in a statement.

He added that the only response to Moscow is "the complete isolation of the terrorist state on the international stage. In particular, this applies to international sports events."

Kyiv says Russian forces have killed 184 Ukrainian athletes since the war started.

In a video address published later, Zelenskyy said, "We can only say one thing: a white or any neutral flag is impossible for Russian athletes, as all their flags are stained in blood."

Neutral banner

The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee recently backed exploring the possibility of allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the 2024 Games if they do not compete under their countries' flags or colors. 

Bach said there was still no date set for a final decision on the matter. 

At the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, which ended just days before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, Russian athletes were only allowed to compete under their country's Olympic committee flag due to previous doping violations.

fb/sms (AFP, Reuters)