US, UK, Germany, France, Japan among 35 nations calling for ban on Russian athletes at Paris 2024 Olympics

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer opposes Russian athletes competing  at the Paris Olympics  (REUTERS)
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer opposes Russian athletes competing at the Paris Olympics (REUTERS)

Volodymyr Zelensky told more than 30 sports minister on Friday that “terror and Olympism are two opposites” as he stepped up pressure to ban Russian athletes from the Paris 2024 Games.

The Ukrainian President virtually addressed the summit which was being chaired from London.

The UK Government is now coordinating a collective statement towards the International Olympic Committee which is expected to be agreed and published in the coming days.

Lithuania’s sports minister said 35 countries including the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan were pushing for a ban but this was not confirmed.

Earlier, new Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said Russian athletes should be banned from competing on the Olympics “world stage”.

The Cabinet minister spoke out as the UK was chairing a summit of around 30 nations to coordinate an international response to fears that Russian and Belarusian athletes will be able to participate in the 2024 Games in Paris.

She said: “We cannot allow Russian athletes to line up alongside Team GB and everyone else on the world stage”

The stance from Britain, and many other countries, is in response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine which has reportedly killed more than 40,000 civilians and forced millions of people to flee their homes.

An estimated 180,000 Russian soldiers have died or been wounded in Putin’s war, launched last February, with Ukraine’s armed forces believed to have suffered similar casualty levels.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the sports ministers’ summit chaired from London.

The International Olympic Committee is working to create a pathway to enable Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under strict conditions as neutrals despite the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, with Putin expected to launch a major spring offensive within weeks.

Former Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan criticised the IOC’s stance, and her successor Ms Frazer was leading the virtual meeting of ministers on Friday to co-ordinate an international response.

Mr Zelensky made an opening address to the meeting via video link, following on from his visit to the UK on Wednesday.

Ukraine’s sports minister has threatened to boycott the Games if Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to compete, while Mr Zelensky has previously said that attempts to bring Russian athletes back into the Olympic Games “are attempts to tell the whole world that terror is somehow acceptable”.

Earlier this week the Olympic committees of Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark backed calls for the ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes to be upheld for the Paris 2024 Games.

Last week Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland all voiced their opposition to the inclusion of athletes from Russia and Belarus.

Ms Frazer said: “President Zelensky told the UK in Parliament this week of the suffering still being felt by many Ukrainians.

“As he did so the IOC was continuing to ignore the international allies stepping up their efforts for peace and disregard how the Olympics will give (Russian president Vladimir) Putin the perfect platform to promote Russia and legitimise his illegal war.

“We’re approaching a year since this barbaric invasion began. We must urge the IOC to show that the Olympic values mean something. We must make clear there are consequences to this illegal invasion.”

The IOC initially recommended the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from international sport in the days following the invasion.

However, its president Thomas Bach has since said that was a measure designed only to protect those athletes, and said it was now imperative that athletes not be discriminated against simply because of the passport they hold.

The IOC has warned any boycott will only affect the athletes of the country or countries involved, and that a boycott would go against the fundamental principles of the Olympic Movement.