© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: 2022 Beijing Olympics – Skeleton – National Sliding Centre, Yanqing District, Beijing, China – February 11, 2022. Vladyslav Heraskevych of Ukraine holds a sign with a message reading ‘No war in Ukraine’. IOC/OBS/Handout via Reuters/File Photo

(Reuters) – Ukraine has banned its national sports teams from competing in Olympic, non-Olympic and Paralympic events that include competitors from Russia and Belarus, the sports ministry said in a decree published on Friday.

The decision, criticised by some Ukrainian athletes, comes after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) angered Kyiv by paving the way for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, initially using its ally Belarus as a staging ground for troops driving towards Kyiv in what Russia called a “special military operation”.

The war, now in its 14 month, has killed tens of thousands, levelled cities and uprooted millions.

Ukraine had previously warned its sports federations that it would strip them of their status as governing bodies if their athletes competed on the international stage with Russians and Belarusians.

The decree published on the Sports Ministry’s website overnight was signed by Deputy Sports Minister Matviy Bidnyi.

Some Ukrainian athletes, including Olympian skeleton racer Vladyslav Heraskevych, criticised the ban saying it would lead to the destruction of Ukrainian sports.

“If Ukrainian representatives are not present at competitions, then we completely vacate the international sports grounds and give the Russian/Belarusian representatives the opportunity to promote their narratives and propaganda,” he wrote on Twitter.

The IOC sanctioned Russia and Belarus but in late March it recommended allowing their athletes to compete as neutrals in international competition. It also opened the door to allow them to qualify for next year’s Summer Olympics in Paris.


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