The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced its plan to allow Russians and Belarusians participate at the upcoming Paris Olympics as "neutral athletes" despite Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky's call to bar them.
The IOC said that it will prolong its sanctions against Russia and Belarus, which include a ban on national symbols and the invitation of Russian government officials, but will not prevent athletes from participating "just because of their passport."
"A pathway for athletes' participation in competition under strict conditions should therefore be further explored," the IOC statement read.
The board also "welcomed and appreciated the offer from the Olympic Council of Asia" to allow Russians and Belarusians to participate in Asian competitions so that they could qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
The move by the IOC was quickly criticized by the Global Athlete and Athletes for Ukraine association.
"Today's decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in qualifiers to attend the 2024 Paris Olympic Games sends a message to the world that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) endorses Russia's brutal war and invasion of Ukraine," the joint statement released Thursday, January 26 reads.
"By allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, the IOC is strengthening Russia's propaganda machine, empowering the Putin regime, and undermining peace."
The IOC recommended barring Russian and Belarusian athletes from competitions on February 28, after Russia, with the support of Belarus, launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
On Jan. 24 this year during a call with French President Emmanuel Macron, Zelensky expressed his concerns that Russian athletes should be barred from the Olympics.
"I particularly emphasized that athletes from Russia should have no place at the Olympic Games in Paris," Zelensky wrote on Telegram.
The IOC stated that the decision has been backed "by the vast majority of the participants in each of the consultation calls."
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