The elite athletes are in opposition to the participation in the Games by Russians and Belarusians who have supported the war in Ukraine. The open letter has appeared on Ukraine’s Ministry of Youth and Sports website as reported by The Odessa Journal on Jan. 4, 2024.
The letter of appeal was sent to Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, Minister of Sports Amelie Oudea-Castera and the chairman of the organizing committee of the Olympics and Paralympics, Tony Estanguet, in addition to President Macron. The letter underlines the fact that several “neutral” Russian athletes who have qualified for the Olympics plus others close to obtaining Olympic licenses actually support the war.
The letter begins with an expression of respect and thanks for supporting Ukraine in its fight for independence and existence against the Russian aggressor. France’s unwavering stance and comprehensive assistance as a partner to Ukraine has allowed it to continue its battle to preserve Ukrainian freedom and identity.
President Macron was hailed for his Dec. 20, 2023 assurance that the European Union’s military support of Ukraine would continue. France’s Minister of Sports was commended for allocating €1 million for the training of Ukrainian Olympians and Paralympians ahead of the Paris Games. Mayor Hidalgo has openly expressed her opposition to Russian and Belarusian athletes participating in the Olympics, even as neutrals. She has hinted that athletes from the two aggressor nations may not be permitted into her city.
The Ukrainian athletes seek to uphold valued Olympic principles and to prevent athletes from the two terrorist states from participating. The letter points out that no athlete from Russia or Belarus has publicly spoken out about the nearly two-year genocidal killings of Ukrainians in the unprovoked war.
Three specific Russian athletes are listed as not “neutral,” but open supporters of the war by confirmed information found on the internet. These athletes include Vladislav Larin, an Olympic taekwondo champion who appeared as a main character in a propaganda video calling on Russian citizens to support the Russian military in the war against Ukraine. Olympic wrestlers Zaurbek Sidakov and Zaur Uguev took part in a propaganda rally in support of the war with Vladimir Putin on March 18, 2022 under the slogan “For peace without Nazism! For Russia! For the President!” Sidakov also liked several social media posts supporting Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine.
The letter called out another nine Russian athletes close to qualifying for the Olympics who have openly supported the war against Ukraine. They include five taekwondo athletes, three judokas and one wrestler.
The Ukrainian athletes state that permitting athletes from the two aggressor countries who openly support the armed hostility against Ukraine violates the ethics of the Olympic Charter and their participation would be unacceptable. The signees ask for the Olympic licenses for these Russian athletes to be canceled. Banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Olympics and Paralympics would strengthen and promote peace and equality personified by the Olympic movement. It would also prevent the upcoming Games from becoming a propaganda tool for the Russian regime.
The final sentence of the letter follows a second expression of gratitude for the support, committed stance and hope for resolving the issue of licenses for these athletes in the 2024 Olympics.
“As long as Russian forces bombard Ukraine, targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, and as long as Russian soldiers remain on Ukrainian soil, Russian and Belarusian athletes should not participate in sporting competitions.”
The letter was respectfully signed by more than 80 decorated Ukrainian athletes including Olympic medalists Oleksandr Abramenko, Marta Fiedina, Yurii Cheban, Oleh Verniaiev, Yaroslava Mahuchikh, Olha Saladukha, Vladyslav Heraskevych, Illia Kovtun, Andriy Protsenko and tennis stars Serhii Stakhovskyi, Oleksandr Dolhopolov and Lesya Tsurenko to name but a few.
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