Ukraine launching campaign to bar Russian athletes from Paris Olympics

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Ukraine will start an international campaign to ban Russian athletes from competing in the Olympic Games to held in Paris next year, according to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the country’s president.

Speaking during his daily address late on January 27, the Ukrainian leader said Russian athletes should be barred from participating in next year’s Games even under a neutral flag. The Olympics should not be used to allow the Kremlin to re-enter the international order, he added.

“We are starting a marathon of honesty, which will be aimed at clearing the leadership of international Olympic structures of hypocrisy and [preventing] any attempts to bring representatives of the terrorist state into world sports,” Zelenskyy said.

His comments come days after the International Olympic Committee, the body that oversees the global sporting competition, reaffirmed its commitment that both Russian and Belarusian athletes would be able to compete despite the strong opposition from Ukraine.

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“No athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport,” the group said in a statement.

Zelenskyy spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week, in part to reaffirm Ukraine’s wish that Russia should not be involved in next year’s Paris Olympics, according to a post from the Ukrainian leader on Telegram, the encrypted online messaging service.

Zelenskyy also invited Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee, to visit the war-torn city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine to see the human effects of Russia’s ongoing invasion.

Ukraine’s president is also expected to make an appearance at an upcoming music festival in Italy next month, though some local politicians criticized his participation amid ongoing skepticism within Italy about the war in Eastern Europe.

“I expect songs from the Italian song festival, not something else,” Matteo Salvini, the country’s deputy prime minister and rightwing politician, told local media, according to Reuters.