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Russia sanctions must remain in 2023: Olympics chief

The sporting sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine must remain firmly in place in 2023, the head of the International Olympic Committee insisted Friday.

IOC president Thomas Bach said Ukrainian athletes had the Olympic Movement’s full solidarity and the IOC wanted to see a strong Ukrainian team at the Paris 2024 Games.

From its own territory and that of Belarus, Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, three days after the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, in violation of the Olympic truce and charter.

The IOC sanctioned Moscow and Minsk, with no international sports events being organised or supported in Russia or Belarus, and no national symbols of these countries being displayed at any sports event.

“These sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian states and governments must and will remain firmly in place,” Bach said in a New Year message.

“We are supporting the athletes and members of the Ukrainian Olympic community everywhere with all our solidarity.

“In the New Year, the Ukrainian athletes can count on the full commitment to this solidarity from the IOC and the entire Olympic Movement. We want to see a strong team from… Ukraine at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 and the Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026.”

Earlier this month, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky insisted Russian athletes should face “complete isolation” and not be welcomed back at the 2024 Olympics.

Zelensky told Bach that he strongly opposed moves by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete at the Paris Games provided they do not participate under their countries’ colours or flags.

US officials said there was “unanimous interest” among delegates to an IOC summit to come up with a pathway that would allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to return to competition.

Zelensky also told Bach he was disappointed with the presence of the president of the Russian Olympic Committee at the IOC summit on November 9. 

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