35 countries unite against participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in Olympics
35 countries, including the United States, Britain, and Germany, demand to ban Russians from the 2024 Olympics. Volodymyr Zelenskyy supported them during online meeting
The Lithuanian sports minister reported this on February 10, according to Reuters.
This step increases the pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is desperately trying to avoid a boycott of the sporting event due to the bloody conflict unfolding in Ukraine.
"We are going in the direction that we would not need a boycott because all countries are unanimous," Jurgita Siugzdiniene said.
The leading sports powers, including the United Kingdom and the United States, supported their position on the exclusion of Russians and Belarusians from the Olympics.
"We know that 70% of Russian athletes are soldiers. I consider it unacceptable that such people participate in the Olympic Games in the current situation, when fair play obviously means nothing to them," Czech foreign minister Jan Lipavsky said after meeting the heads of the Czech IOC.
Ukraine has threatened to boycott the games if Russian and Belarusian athletes compete. Such threats have revived memories of boycotts in the 1970s and 1980s during the Cold War era that still haunt the global Olympic body today, and it has called on Ukraine to drop them.
However, Polish Sports Minister Kamil Bortniczuk said that a boycott was not on the table for now.
"It's not time to talk about a boycott yet," he told a news conference, saying there were other ways of putting pressure on the IOC that could be explored first.
He said that most participants had been in favour of an absolute exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes.
"Most voices – with the exception of Greece, France, Japan – were exactly in this tone," he said.
He said that creating a team of refugees that would include Russian and Belarusian dissidents could be a compromise solution.
Anette Trettebergstuen, Norway's Minister of Culture and Equality, also said it was "far too early" to think about a boycott but added that it was "strange and provocative" for the IOC to consider allowing Russian athletes to compete.
"In a Russian context, there is no difference between sport and politics, and any sports performance is pure propaganda," Trettebergstuen told, “saying the athletes should be able to compete as neutrals... Neutrality is not possible. It's a dead end."
The Russian sports ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment. An IOC spokesperson said they would not comment "on interpretations from individual participants of a meeting whose overall content is unknown".
The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who took part in the online meeting, pointed out 228 that Ukrainian athletes and coaches died as a result of the Russian aggression.
"While Russia kills and terrorizes, representatives of the terrorist state have no place at sports and Olympic competitions. And it cannot be covered up with some pretended neutrality or a white flag. Because Russia is now a country that stains everything with blood - even the white flag,” he said.
The Ukrainian leader called on world leaders to stop the aggression and "fight against those who choose the path of terror."
"The International Olympic Committee needs honesty. Honesty it has unfortunately lost. Honesty that will help stop Russian terror and bring peace closer."