Estonian Minister of Culture Piret Hartman (SDE) signed a joint statement by sports ministers and senior officials from 34 countries, stressing that there is no practical reason to consider allowing the full return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international sporting competition.
The joint statement emphasizes, that Russia's aggression in Ukraine continues and that the situation has only worsened since February 2022. The ministers also asserted, there solidarity with the Ukrainian athletes, "whose facilities have been destroyed and who have had to leave their country (or stay to fight for the defense of Ukraine in which very many have lost their lives)." As a result, the statement continues, "there is no practical reason to move away from the exclusion regime for Russian and Belarusian athletes set by the IOC in their statement of 28 February 2022."
The ministers also pointed out, that, "through their choices, action and ongoing invasion Russia broke the Olympic Truce that has been continuously supported by the United Nations General Assembly since 1993."
"Russia's aggression and crimes in the heart of Europe, in Ukraine, continue. We, together with like-minded countries, have made our position very clear since the beginning of the war. Russian and Belarusian athletes have no place behind the same starting line as our athletes. Estonia's position on this issue has not changed. We must continue to do our utmost to ensure that athletes from the aggressor countries cannot return to the Olympic Games," said Estonian Minister of Culture Piret Hartman (SDE).
The joint statement underlines the close connections between sport in Russia and Belarus.
"We have strong concerns on how feasible it is for Russian and Belarusian Olympic athletes to compete as 'neutrals' – under the IOC's conditions of no identification with their country – when they are directly funded and supported by their states (unlike, for example, professional tennis players)," the ministers said in the statement.
They also highlighted the strong connections between Russian athletes and the military.
"As long as these fundamental issues and the substantial lack of clarity and concrete detail on a workable 'neutrality' model are not addressed, we do not agree that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed back into competition."
Noting the IOC's stated position that no final decisions have been made, we strongly urge the IOC to address the questions identified by all countries and reconsider its proposal accordingly. We also note that Russia and Belarus have it in their own hands to pave the way for their athletes' full return to the international sports community, namely by ending the war they started," the signatories stressed.
On February 10, Culture Minister Piret Hartman took part in a video-conference with sports ministers from more than 35 countries, at the invitation of the U.K. Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer. The ministers discussed issues related to the potential participation of athletes from aggressor countries in international sporting events. At the beginning of the meeting, the ministers were welcomed by President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The Joint Declaration was signed by representatives of 25 EU countries, as well as Canada, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Norway, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Together, the signatory countries won more than 50 percent of the medals at last year's Tokyo Summer Olympics and nearly 80 percent of those up for grabs at the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
The full statement can be found here.
Editor: Michael Cole