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Over 200 Ukrainian athletes urge French President Emmanuel Macron to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from Paris 2024

By Ben Church and Thomas Schlachter, CNN

(CNN) — Over 200 Ukrainian athletes have signed a letter urging French President Emmanuel Macron to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating at this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Amid the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict, the open letter, published on December 29 by Ukraine’s sports ministry, is also addressed to the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, France’s Minister of Sports Amélie Oudéa-Castéra and other organizers of Paris 2024.

The growing list, which now numbers 218 Ukrainian athletes, has so far been signed by the likes of Chelsea star Mykhaylo Mudryk and Benfica goalkeeper Anatoly Trubin.

“In July 2024, the XXXIII Olympic Games will begin in Paris. We, Ukrainian athletes, seek your continued support in the fight to uphold Olympic principles and prevent athletes from terrorist states from participating,” the letter read.

“No athlete from these countries has publicly spoken out against the killings, against the genocide of the Ukrainian people during the war.”

Last year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Russian and Belarusian athletes who have qualified for Paris 2024 will be eligible to compete as neutral athletes – provided they meet eligibility requirements.

The decision applies only to individual athletes and does not include teams from those countries.

Athletes who actively support the war, or who are contracted to their country’s military services, will also not be eligible to compete. The IOC said that “no flag, anthem, colours or any other identifications whatsoever of Russia or Belarus will be displayed” at the Games.

Last year, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) voted against a full suspension of the two countries’ national Paralympic committees (NPC), meaning Russian and Belarusian para-athletes will also be permitted to compete under a neutral flag at next year’s Paralympic Games.

Neither the Paris 2024 organizing committee nor the French government have jurisdiction over who qualifies for the Games.

“It’s important to note that qualification for the Olympic Games Paris 2024, as well as the implementation of strict eligibility conditions for AINs [individual neutral athletes] falls under the responsibility of the IOC and the International Federations,” a Paris 2024 spokesperson told CNN in a statement.

“Paris 2024’s responsibility is to host athletes who have qualified for the Games under the best possible conditions, regardless of their nationality. With just over six months to go until the start of the Games, this remains our primary goal.

“In the context of the ongoing conflict, we would like to express our continued solidarity with Ukraine, its people and the Ukrainian Olympic and Paralympic movements.”

CNN has reached out to the French government for comment.

Russian and Belarusian athletes were banned from most international competitions in February 2022 after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Belarus’ assistance in the attack.

More than 400 Ukrainian athletes have been killed since Russia launched its the full scale invasion, the president of the Ukrainian National Olympic Committee (NOC) Vadym Gutzait said on the Ukrainian state TV last month.

Despite the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the IOC outlined in March last year a multi-step plan for Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate at Paris 2024.

It was a decision that attracted criticism – a joint statement from the athletes’ rights group Global Athlete and Ukrainian athletes said the plans only strengthened “Russia’s propaganda machine.”

In December, the IOC then revealed that of the 4,600 athletes who have already qualified for Paris 2024, only eight held a Russian passport, plus three with a Belarusian passport.

The open letter added: “Allowing these athletes contradicts the fundamental recommendations of the International Olympic Committee, as the athletes admitted to the Olympics are not “neutral” but open supporters of war.”

According to Reuters, Ukraine’s Minister of Youth and Sport, Matviy Bidnyi, said the country must consider participating at Paris 2024 following the IOC’s decision in December.

“We should not make rash decisions. It will be a balanced decision and we have to communicate it to the public. We will weigh the pros and cons very carefully,” he said on national television.

The Paris 2024 Olympics runs between July 26 and August 11, while the Paralympics takes place from August 28 through September 8.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Julia Kesaieva and Ivana Kottasová contributed reporting.

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