Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the International Olympic Committee of “ethnic discrimination” ahead of the 2024 Paris Games, from which Russian and Belarusian athletes are banned from competing under their national flags.

The IOC still has to make a final ruling on whether athletes from Russia and Belarus, a key ally for Moscow in its war with Ukraine, will be permitted to compete next summer.

“Thanks to some heads of the modern International Olympic Committee we found out that an invitation to the Games is not an unconditional right for the best athletes, but some kind of privilege and you can get it not on sports results but by some political gestures,” Putin said at a sports forum in the Urals city of Perm.

“The Games themselves could be used as an instrument of political pressure towards those people who have nothing to do with politics, and as a gross -- in reality -- racist, ethnic discrimination.”

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He added that: “Some sports officials have simply given themselves the right to determine who is covered by the Olympic Charter and who is not.”

The IOC last week suspended Russia’s national Olympic body for violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine’s membership by recognising regional organisations in occupied Ukraine.

Russia launched a full-scale offensive against Ukraine in February 2022, with its neighbour Belarus allowing Moscow’s troops to use its territory as a launchpad.

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