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Sports Ministers: Exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competition should continue

Ministry of Education and Culture
Publication date 21.2.2023 8.00 | Published in English on 21.2.2023 at 11.03
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In their statement published on 20 February, the ministers of sport from 34 countries state that the International Olympic Committee should not change its decision of 28 February 2022 concerning the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international sports. According to the ministers, the situation in Ukraine has deteriorated over the past year.

The statement follows a ministerial meeting chaired by the United Kingdom on 10 February 2023, which was attended by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The ministers reaffirmed their two previous collective statements of 8 March 2022 and 4 July 2022.

The proposal of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of 25 January 2023 raises many questions and concerns among the ministers. The IOC’s proposal explores opportunities for Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in international competition as neutral athletes.

Because the situation in Ukraine has only worsened due to Russia’s war of aggression, which affects athletes in many ways too, the ministers see no practical reason to move away from the exclusion regime for Russian and Belarusian athletes set by the IOC a year ago. The ministers also note that through its actions Russia breaks the Olympic Truce that has been continuously supported by the United Nations General Assembly since 1993.

In their statement of 4 July 2022, the ministers recognised that Russian and Belarusian nationals could be allowed to compete as neutral individuals. However, in Russia and Belarus sports and politics are closely intertwined, Olympic athletes are funded and supported by the states, and there are strong links between Russian athletes and the Russian military. The ministers therefore consider that the IOC cannot use non-discrimination simply on the basis of nationality as its starting point.

As long as the IOC does not address these fundamental issues and the substantial lack of clarity and concrete detail on a ‘neutrality’ model, the ministers are of the opinion that Russian and Belarusian athletes should not be allowed to compete.

The ministers also note that Russia and Belarus have it in their own hands to pave the way for their athletes’ full return to the international sports community by ending the war they started.

Statement on Russia's war on Ukraine and international sport


The Netherlands, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States.

Inquiries: Antti Varis, Special Adviser, tel. +358 29 533 0195

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