Ukraine tells athletes to keep away from Russians and Belarusians at Paris Olympics

Ukraine has directed its athletes to keep their distance from Russian and Belarusian competitors at this summer’s Paris Olympics.

Despite protests from Kyiv, Russian and Belarusian athletes are set to take part in the games, which take place in July and August, after the International Olympic Committee allowed them to participate as neutrals without their national flags, emblems or anthems. It also said athletes who actively supported the war in Ukraine would not be eligible.

On Thursday, the Ukrainian Olympic Committee and the country’s Ministry of Sports told its athletes that any contact with “representatives of the aggressor states” inside and outside the Olympic venues was discouraged.

The directive was meant to avoid any possible “provocation” from the “aggressor nations”, the committee said.

The Ukrainian athletes were directed not to engage with Olympians from Russia and Belarus on social media, to keep their distance during medal ceremonies, and to avoid any joint press conferences, interviews and live broadcasts not directly related to their sporting events.

The Ukrainian Olympic Committee also urged its athletes to report any violations of the neutrality requirement by Russians and Belarusians.

The committee said it was “preparing in the extremely difficult conditions of Russian aggression for participation in the 2024 XXIII Olympic Games”.

Russian and Belarusian athletes were initially banned from competing internationally after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

In October 2023, the International Olympic Committee suspended Russia after it tried to include the four regions of eastern Ukraine that it has annexed during the ongoing war under its sporting jurisdiction. It has refrained from sanctioning the Russian and Belarusian olympic committees, however.