Ukraine has decided to boycott Olympic qualifying events in which Russians are competing for the Paris 2024 Games.
Oleh Nemchinov, the Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, announced the decision in a televised interview on Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne on Thursday.
This follows International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach outlining new guidelines on Tuesday that would allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals, paving the way for their participation.
Athletes from the two nations were banned from most international competitions in February 2022 after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and following the IOC executive board’s recommendation.
“Today at the government meeting a protocol decision was made based on the proposal of my colleague (Ukrainian Sports Minister and Ukrainian National Olympic Committee President Vadym) Gutzeit that we participate only in the qualifying competitions where there are no Russians,” Nemchinov said.
Nemchinov acknowledged it was not an easy decision, and that it meant some Ukrainian athletes would miss their chance to participate in the Olympics.
“You know, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” he said when he asked what would happen to Ukrainian athletes.
“Yesterday, I attended another funeral of a good acquaintance of mine, who gave more than 20 years to athletics and died in the Kharkiv area. He left behind three children. He volunteered for his second war. And he wasn’t a canteen cook, let’s put it that way. That is, he was serving in combat units,” Nemchinov said.
“So, I want to tell our fellow athletes who are worried that because of the IOC’s decisions and the admission of Russians or Belarusians to the competitions, respectively, that Ukrainians will not be able to participate, that their careers will be ruined or something to that effect. But actually, you and your children’s lives will be saved,” Nemchinov added.
Ukrainian skeleton star and Beijing 2022 Winter Olympian Vladyslav Heraskevych told CNN’s Amanda Davies on Wednesday that the IOC’s decision to allow Russian and Belarussian athletes to participate in international competitions comes as “a slap in the face, not only to Ukrainian athletes but to all Ukraine and all Ukrainians.”
But Heraskevych also told CNN that boycotting Paris 2024 should be up to athletes and that “athletes should decide their own road.”
According to the IOC’s latest recommendations, athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport must compete only as individual neutral athletes and meet all anti-doping requirements, while those who support the war or are contracted to military or national service cannot compete.
The IOC also said that a decision about the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games would be made at a later stage.
The Kremlin has described those guidelines as containing “elements of discrimination.”
Last month, the US and more than 30 other “like-minded” countries backed a proposed ban of Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in international sports, according to a joint statement.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s sports minister said in January the country would not rule out boycotting the Olympics if Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to compete at Paris 2024.
Last week, World Athletics president Sebastian Coe announced Russian and Belarusian athletes will still be excluded from World Athletics Series Events “for the foreseeable future,” reaffirming the organization’s March 2022 decision.