The newly minted Acting Minister of Youth and Sports of Ukraine, Matvii Bidnyi, expressed concern about the potential decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris under a neutral flag.

Bidny stated this in an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde on the eve of the meeting of the IOC Executive Committee in Paris, the official website of the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine reports.

Commenting on the IOC recommendations adopted on March 28, 2023, the head of the Ministry recalled Russia's previous violations of the Olympic Truce and suggested that banning the participation of athletes with passports of the Russian Federation and Belarus could help stop the aggression.

"Now we are witnessing a kind of flirtation with the aggressor country. We cannot forget that the Russians have repeatedly violated the Olympic Truce. In 2008, in Georgia, during the Games, and then when they were the hosts of the 2014 Games (in Sochi), they did it again in Ukraine with Crimea. The IOC and other sports organizations expect the Russian Federation to show respect, but it ignores all this, disregards international rules and values, and neglects everything," Bidnyi emphasizes.

He added that the international community must do everything in its power to stop Russian aggression.

"International organizations must do everything possible to stop this aggression. Of course, the IOC can't do it on its own, but it can act, even at its level. Perhaps banning Russian and Belarusian athletes would help stop this aggression. It's a matter of responsibility. After all, today, in our opinion, this compromise (on neutral status – note) on this issue is irresponsible," said the head of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

According to him, Russian athletes cannot be neutral, because in fact they support the war and depend on Russian state funding.

"The entire system of training and selection of Russian athletes is based on public funds, blood money. And athletes are completely dependent on the state. It is impossible for them not to support the war. I guarantee you that if Russian athletes under neutral flags take part in the Olympic Games, then the day after returning to Russia, they will wear the "Z" symbol on their shoulders in Russian stadiums and will be used by this great propaganda machine. This is absolutely 100% certain. And if they don't, they will be imprisoned," Bidnyi said.

He stressed that it is psychologically unpleasant for Ukrainian athletes to compete with "neutral" Russians and Belarusians, pointing to provocations by representatives of the aggressor countries. As an example, he cited the actions of a Russian athlete against Ukrainian fencer Olga Kharlan.

"We know that it was an absolutely planned provocation, and we feel it at every competition. Even in sports where they don't have champions or good athletes, they use average athletes to participate and possible provocation against Ukraine.

If I personally had to compete with someone who supports the war or passively supports the regime that killed my relatives, it would be very difficult to even imagine on a psychological level. The International Olympic Committee has not yet made a decision. We hope that it will be correct and they will take responsibility," Bidnyi said.

The head of the Ministry also spoke about how Russian aggression affects the preparation of Ukrainian athletes for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris.

"We suffer from air attacks on the country every night, people cannot sleep, these are not the best conditions to prepare for the competition. First of all, many of our athletes have loved ones on the front line and have lost relatives. All this cannot but have an impact. As for training, we are trying to organize it in Ukraine, we have several places designed to prepare for the Games. But it's very hard to concentrate. Many athletes have gone abroad to train, and we already have some good results and hope for more," Bidnyi said.

Separately, he recalled that about 3000 Ukrainian athletes and coaches are fighting as part of the Defense Forces of Ukraine, and almost 400 athletes and coaches died in the war.

It should be noted that the IOC has not yet made a final decision on whether Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to participate in the 2024 Olympics. The Summer Olympics in Paris are scheduled to take place from July 26 to August 11, 2024.

Earlier, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) allowed Russian athletes to participate in the 2024 Paralympics in Paris under a neutral flag. The Summer Paralympic Games in the French capital will take place from August 28 to September 8, 2024.

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