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Ukraine intensifies effort to bar Russian athletes from Olympics in 2024

KYIV — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday redoubled his efforts to stop Russian athletes from participating the 2024 Olympics, saying they would try to justify the war against Ukraine if allowed to compete.

Zelenskiy said on Friday that Ukraine would launch an international campaign to keep Russia out of the summer games, which will be held in Paris.

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“If Russian athletes appear at international competitions, it is only a matter of time before they start justifying Russia’s aggression and using the symbols of terror,” he said in a Saturday evening video address.

Ukraine, he said, had written to major international sports federations asking them to clarify their position on what he called the International Olympic Committee’s desire to “open up sports to the propaganda influence of the terrorist state.”

The IOC said on Wednesday the Olympic Council of Asia had offered Russian and Belarusian athletes the chance to compete in Asia, giving them a qualification pathway for the 2024 Olympics. Ukraine says it could boycott the Games if Russian and Belarusian athletes take part.

Earlier on Saturday, Zelenskiy aide Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter that Russian athletes would effectively be “ambassadors of death” if allowed to compete and accused the IOC of promoting what he called “the Russian anti-human policy.”

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday that any attempt to squeeze Moscow out of international sport was “doomed to fail.” (Reporting by Dan Peleschuk and David Ljunggren; Editing by Alison Williams and Cynthia Osterman)