May 19. 2024. 1:47

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Zelenskyy urges Olympic sponsors to keep Russia out of Games

Ukraine has sent letters to companies that back the International Olympic Committee urging them to keep Russian athletes out of the Paris Olympic Games, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday (5 February).

Zelenskyy has been spearheading a drive to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in the games under a neutral flag. Zelenskyy has said their presence would normalise Russia’s invasion of his country and make “terror” acceptable.

“Ukraine has sent appropriate letters to the companies that provide the biggest support for the International Olympic Committee,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

“These are large international companies who clearly have an interest in ensuring that their reputation and support is not used for war propaganda.”

The IOC said in late January that the Olympic Council of Asia had offered Russian and Belarusian athletes the chance to compete in Asia, drawing an outcry from Kyiv which has called for Russian athletes to be banned over Russia’s invasion.

The committee said later it was standing by sanctions imposed against Russia, which invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago and Belarus whose authorities provided support for the invasion.

The head of the Paris 2024 Olympics Tony Estanguet said on Friday it was for the IOC to decide whether Russian and Belarusian athletes can participate in the Games next year.

Three-time Olympic champion and President of the Paris 2024 Organising Committee Estanguet told Reuters that he was “in favour of maintaining this symbol of universality for the Games” when asked about Russian and Belarusian participation.

Yet he said the decision rested with the Games’ governing body.

Poland said on Thursday that it would be possible to build a coalition of some 40 countries, including the US, Britain and Canada, by 10 February, supporting the call to block Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Games.

Denmark is opposed to Russian athletes participating in the Paris Olympics next year even under a neutral flag, the country’s culture minister said on Friday according to local news agency Ritzau.

“It is Denmark’s official position that we must not waver in relation to Russia,” Danish Culture Minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt said.

Estonia could boycott Paris Olympics next year if Russian and Belarusian athletes are not removed from the competition, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said on Friday.

“Our efforts should be on convincing other friends and allies that participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes is just wrong. Boycotting is the next step, ” Kallas said after meeting her Latvian and Lithuanian counterparties in Tallinn.

The Paris Olympics will be held from 26 July to 11 August next year and the Paralympics from 28 August to 8 September.