Ukraine will boycott any Olympic qualifying events for the Paris 2024 Games where Russians are competing, the government announced Thursday.
Oleh Nemchinov, the Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, revealed the decision in a televised interview.
“Today at the government meeting a protocol decision was made based on the proposal of my colleague (Ukrainian Sports Minister and Ukrainian National Olympic Committee President Vadym) Gutzeit that we participate only in the qualifying competitions where there are no Russians,” Nemchinov said.
Nemchinov acknowledged that the decision means that some Ukrainian athletes would miss their chance to participate in the Olympics, and said that it wasn’t an easy decision.
“You know, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” he said regarding the impact on Ukrainian athletes.
“Yesterday, I attended another funeral of a good acquaintance of mine, who gave more than 20 years to athletics and died in the Kharkiv area. He left behind three children. He volunteered for his second war. And he wasn’t a canteen cook, let’s put it that way. That is, he was serving in combat units,” Nemchinov said.
“So, I want to tell our fellow athletes who are worried that because of the IOC’s decisions and the admission of Russians or Belarusians to the competitions, respectively, that Ukrainians will not be able to participate, that their careers will be ruined or something to that effect. But actually, you and your children’s lives will be saved,” Nemchinov added.
The announcement comes in the wake of the IOC’s proposed pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to Olympic competition last week, which one Ukrainian athlete called a “slap in the face.”
The proposal didn’t seem to satisfy many – Russians also slammed any-and-all restrictions.
“With such conditions, there is no chance. You have to sell your soul to the devil to go to Paris or remain a normal person,” Russian Fencing Federation head Ilgar Mammadov said.
“In this matter, the IOC has shown that international federations are simply nobody and nothing. What is an international federation? There is a charter, there is a supreme governing body: this is the congress. Congress decides on admission. The IOC again gives some recommendations of its own. Why is it possible to perform in tennis, but fencers are not allowed when [the FIE] Congress has voted? The IOC simply restricts our rights as athletes, as people.”
He also addressed the special restrictions on athletes affiliated with the military – which is relatively-common in Russia (and many other countries).
Russia has been barred from most global sporting competition since their invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, though there have been some notable exceptions. Of significance, the FIE, the world governing body for fencing, voted last week to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to resume competition, which was met by protests from hundreds of fencers and Germany cancelling a fencing World Cup competition in women’s foil.
The International Boxing Association, which is mired in a quagmire of chaos unrelated to Russia and Belarus, also allowed Russian and Belarusian boxers to compete at the Women’s World Boxing Championships two weeks ago – without restriction. That includes competing under national symbols, parading their flags, and playing their national anthems.
The IBA is led by Russian Umar Kremlev, and Russian energy giant Gazprom is a major financial backer.
In spite of the IBA declaration that all athletes be allowed to compete under their national flags, India did not allow the flag or anthem of Kosovo at the championships. While Kosovo is recognized by the IOC and 101 out of 193 United Nations member states, India does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state from Serbia.
Ukraine, the US, Canada, and Sweden are all among countries that boycotted that tournament.
The United Nations has confirmed more than 8,451 civilian deaths and 14,156 civilian injuries in Ukraine since the invasion begin, though they also said that the death toll is likely higher.
Estimates of deaths among members of the two militaries vary, but most sources agree that it measures in the hundreds-of-thousands.
Of the five Olympic divisions under the aquatics umbrella, four require competition against other European nations for qualification that could result in direct competition with Russia. While pool swimming does not, competitions in water polo, open water swimming, diving, and synchronized swimming likely would, if World Aquatics and the IOC decide to allow Russian competition again.
There have been global discussions of a boycott of the Olympic Games if Russia and Belarus are allowed to participate, though so far, most nations have been measured and are taking a “wait-and-see” approach.