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Baltics and Poland against Russian athletes at Olympics

Baltic countries and Poland oppose any participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at Olympic Games, even under a neutral flag, Latvia’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.

The IOC said last week it was examining a “pathway” for Russians to take part in next year’s Summer Games in Paris, probably as neutral athletes rather than under their national flag.

That announcement sparked an immediate backlash from Kyiv, with a Ukrainian presidential aide accusing the IOC of being a “promoter of war”.

Latvia’s foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics said in a tweet: “Decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the next Olympics is immoral and wrong.”

He called for Russia to be isolated as long as it continues its invasion of Ukraine.

“As all tyrannies do, it uses sports for political purposes. International Olympic Committee should not become complicit in Russian propaganda efforts,” Rinkevics said after a meeting with his counterparts from the Baltics and Poland in Riga.

Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Paris Games if Russians are allowed to take part.

The Latvian Olympic Committee has joined the call for a boycott.

“Latvia will not participate in the games together with the aggressor country,” the Committee’s president Zorzs Tikmers told Latvia’s LTV1.

Polish Sports Minister Kamil Bortniczuk said last week he “cannot imagine” a scenario in which Russian and Belarusian athletes would take part in the Olympics, saying that he could not rule out giving the IOC “an ultimatum”.

Stopping short of announcing a boycott, Bortniczuk said Poland would organize “an effective coalition of countries” to block the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at next year’s Olympics.

The head of Russia’s Olympic Committee said Tuesday that its athletes must not be subjected to different conditions from those of other countries.

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