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Ukrainian athletes urged to avoid Russians and Belarusians at Paris 2024

By Radina Gigova and Svitlana Vlasova, CNN

(CNN) — Ukrainian athletes have been urged by the country’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) to avoid contact with Russians and Belarusians during the 2024 Olympics in Paris so that possible “provocative actions” can be prevented.

The recommendations include refraining from “direct contact with representatives of the aggressor countries, which could lead to provocative actions on their part in the Olympic Village or outside it,” Ukraine’s NOC and the Ministry of Youth and Sports said Thursday.

Ukrainian athletes are also asked “not to communicate or discuss on social media with individual neutral athletes from Russia and Belarus” and not to share or respond to their content.

Keeping “as much distance as possible” from Russian and Belarusian athletes and refraining from taking photos with them, “unless such a need is related to compliance with the mandatory requirements of the competition rules,” is also recommended during and outside award ceremonies.

Ukrainian athletes are also urged to refrain from “participating in press conferences, live broadcasts, interviews and other promotional events with individual neutral athletes of the Russian Federation and Belarus before and after the competition,” according to the recommendations.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced in December that Russian and Belarusian athletes will only be eligible to compete as individual neutral athletes at this year’s Paris Games. These athletes are referred to by the abbreviation AIN, which comes from the French translation Athlètes Individuels Neutres.

In order to compete, the athletes must meet eligibility requirements. Teams of Russian and Belarusian athletes will not be considered, while athletes who actively support the war against Ukraine will also be ineligible. No reference to either country will be made at the Games through the athletes’ participation.

Kyiv has condemned the decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba went as far as saying in December that the IOC “essentially gave Russia the green light to weaponize the Olympics.”

“The Kremlin will use every Russian and Belarusian athlete as a weapon in its propaganda warfare. I urge all partners to strongly condemn this shameful decision, which undermines Olympic principles,” Kuleba said in a post on social media.

Belarus has played a key role in Russia’s war in Ukraine, and President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, allowed Russian forces to attack Ukraine from Belarusian territory in early 2022. Russia and Belarus also conduct regular joint military drills.

The Summer Olympics will be held in Paris from July 26 to August 11.

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