Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday invited the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, to visit the frontline city of Bakhmut. 

Zelensky extended the invitation after the committee said a "pathway" should be explored for Russians to take part in the 2024 Paris Games.

"I am inviting Mr Bach to Bakhmut so that he can see for himself that neutrality does not exist," Zelensky said. 

"It is obvious that any neutral banner of Russian athletes is stained with blood."

Bakhmut, in the eastern region of Donetsk, is currently the epicentre of the fighting in Ukraine.

Russian forces have been trying to wrest control of Bakhmut for months in what Kyiv has described as some of the bloodiest battles since the start of Russia's offensive on February 24 last year.


Zelensky said "it is impossible not to be disappointed" by the stance of the Olympics chief.

"I spoke with him more than once and never heard how he was going to protect sports from war propaganda if he returned Russian athletes to international competitions," Zelensky said.

"We will do everything for the world to protect sport from the political and any other influence of a terrorist state, which is simply inevitable if Russian athletes compete."

Russia and its ally Belarus have been excluded from competing in most Olympic sports since the invasion of Ukraine.

But the IOC has said "no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport".

‘Without Free Ukraine, There Can Be No Free Belarus’ – Belarusian Opposition Leader
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