Baltics call on IOC to ban Russian, Belarusian athletes from Paris Olympics

Latvian, Estonian, and Lithuanian flags.
Latvian, Estonian, and Lithuanian flags. Source: Jürgen Randma

Baltic foreign ministers on Wednesday called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to exclude "neutral" Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Paris Games next year, saying easing restrictions now is "unjustifiable".

The ministers' joint statement was issued in response to the IOC's recommendations to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete under a neutral flag.

"We are deeply concerned about the IOC's recommendation to open a path for athletes from Russia and Belarus to enter international competitions under the veil of neutrality. Such an approach is unjustifiable," ministers from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania wrote.

The statement said it would be "unwarranted" to ease any measures against Russia and Belarus, and highlighted the connections between "neutral" athletes, governments, regime-backing businesses, each country's military, and state propaganda.

"Which includes glorifying the aggressor's military and promoting military recruitment," wrote foreign minister Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200), Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, and Latvian prime minister and acting foreign minister Krišjanis Karinš.

They also said "growing concerns from athletes and sporting organizations all over the world" about allowing Ukrainians to compete alongside Russians and Belarusians should not be ignored.

The ministers wrote that they are "displeased" with recent remarks by the IOC that called the Baltic's stance "deplorable" and accused them of "double standards".

They called on the IOC to protect the principles of the Olympic Charter by upholding its restrictions for the duration of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Do it for Ukraine & its sporting community, for preventing more victims of conflict globally, & for maintaining our Olympic values," Tsahkna wrote on social media.

Ministers said they were pleased with the IOC's decision to not formally invite Russia and Belarus to participate in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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