- Latvia follows Ukraine in saying it could skip Paris Games
- Russia has faced widespread sporting exclusion since invasion
- IOC considering Russian participation as neutrals in 2024
VILNIUS, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Latvia joined Kyiv on Wednesday in threatening to boycott the 2024 Olympics and qualifiers if Russian and Belarusian athletes are included while the war continues in Ukraine.
Athletes from Russia and Belarus, which aided President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago, have been largely banned from international competitions since.
But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has opened a door to their competition in qualifiers and potential participation as neutrals at the 2024 Paris Games.
“For as long as there is an ongoing war in Ukraine, participation of the Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Olympic Games under any flag is unacceptable,” Latvia’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) said in a statement.
Russia and Belarus’ presence at the Olympics would be an “encouragement for further escalation of warfare, and normalization of war crimes and brutal violence,” it added, saying Latvians should not take part in any competitions with athletes from Russia or Belarus.
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Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, with some of its troops entering from territory in Belarus, and has been bombarding Ukrainian cities since.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s government has also threatened to boycott the Olympics, but Russia has said a campaign to exclude it from international sport will fail.
Moscow says it is defending its own security and denies accusations of widespread atrocities in Ukraine.
Latvia, which borders Russia, has been a strong supporter of Ukraine together with Baltic neighbours Estonia and Lithuanian. But neither of those nations are considering boycotts of Paris, their Olympic committee heads told media.
The Paris 2024 Olympics will be held from July 26-Aug. 11 and the Paralympics from Aug. 28-Sept. 8.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said he and his counterparts from Estonia, Lithuania and Poland had agreed on Tuesday that Russian and Belarusian participation in the Olympics was “unacceptable” while the war continued.
The Baltic ministers of sport will meet on Thursday to discuss a joint appeal to the IOC to ban Russian and Belarusian sportsmen from all international competitions, Lithuanian Minister of Education, Science and Sport Jurgita Siugzdiniene said on Wednesday.
Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius
Editing by Christian Radnedge and Andrew Cawthorne
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