Russia's plan to host a rival event to the Paris Olympics in September proves "it disregards the principles of Olympism" and just wants to use sport as propaganda, Ukraine's Acting Sportstviy BidMinister Manyi has told AFP.

The Friendship Games are slated to take place in Russia on September 15-29, around a month after the Olympics end, with medals and money on offer to the winners.

The event is widely seen as Russia's response to being barred from competing as a nation -- along with allies Belarus -- at the Paris Olympics due to the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The war is still raging, having cost tens of thousands of lives and huge damage to Ukraine's infrastructure.

Whether Russia eventually boycotts Paris is open to question -- its sports minister is opposed to such a move, but Moscow is yet to make its final decision.


Bidnyi views the Friendship Games as an example of Russia being the great disruptor and trying to "utterly destroy order even in sports."

"After Russia, at the state level, decided to fund the so-called Friendship Games and established the so-called 'International Association of Friendship' to organise these Games, it proved to the entire world it disregards the principles of Olympism," Bidnyi told AFP by email.

"It is merely attempting to use sport for its propaganda, to cloak its aggressive war with a facade of sports PR."

The vast majority of Russian and Belarusian athletes fall short of the conditions required to compete as neutrals in Paris so the Friendship Games offer them a chance to compete in a global multi-sports competition,

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Kallas said that training Ukraine’s forces on their territory would not be escalatory, adding that “Russia’s propaganda is about being at war with NATO; they don’t need an excuse.”

International Olympic President Thomas Bach has called the Friendship Games a "cynical attempt to politicise sport" and the IOC has told other nations not to participate.

Bach had initially been heavily criticised for refusing to ban the Russians and Belarusians outright from Paris, but the IOC's tone has hardened, barring those competing as neutral athletes from attending the July 26 opening ceremony on the Seine.


Bidnyi, who replaced Vadym Gutzeit as sports minister last November, believes the breaking point for the IOC with Russia was the announcement of the Friendship Games, despite Russian protestations it is not aimed at rivalling the Olympics.

"Significantly, right after the Russian decision to organise the so-called Friendship Games the IOC intensified the requirements for neutrality criteria," said Bidnyi.

- 'Unshakeable will' -

Showing Moscow's fury at being banned from the opening ceremony, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the IOC had "slipped into racism and neo-Nazism".

Bidnyi claims President Vladimir Putin's approach is in line with his disdain for the IOC and the Olympics -- quite aside from the state-sponsored doping scandal at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014.

"Only under Putin has Russia violated the Olympic truce three times in 2008, by attacking Georgia, in 2014 by invading Ukrainian Crimea, and in 2022 by starting a full-scale aggression," he said.

"In November 2023, only Russia and Syria were the sole nations that did not support the UN resolution on the Olympic truce."

Bidnyi, though, believes the Friendship Games will fail to score the propaganda goal that sports-mad Putin desires.


"There is no alternative to the Olympic Games," said the 44-year-old body builder.

"That is why most countries, including Brazil, India, and China have refused to attend these fake Olympics, and the IOC has condemned the attempt to hold such competitions."

Closer to home Bidnyi underlined how the war unceasingly impinges on the lives of athletes.

"You can't just switch off the TV and think that the war is somewhere far away and doesn't concern you," he said.

He told the story of a young Ukrainian judoka, Anastasiia Chyzhevska, who was born in Lugansk.

"When Russia attacked Ukraine in 2014, her family moved to Irpin near Kyiv.

"Eight years later, the Russian war caught up with her, and Anastasiia had to secretly escape from the occupation. Her father died in this war.

"There are countless such stories."

Ukraine garnered 19 medals at the Covid-delayed Tokyo Olympics but Bidnyi says each athlete's presence in Paris will be a victory.

"Each of them is already a winner. They exhibit an unshakeable will to the entire world."

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