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31 Jan, 2023 07:49

Olympic chiefs react to ‘defamation’ from Kiev

Hurling accusations at the committee won’t lead to a “constructive discussion,” the organization warned
Olympic chiefs react to ‘defamation’ from Kiev

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has denied claims by an aide to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky that the sporting body took bribes from Russia and was “promoting war.” Mikhail Podoliak lashed out at the IOC after it floated the idea of allowing Russian athletes to compete again.

“The IOC rejects in the strongest possible terms this and other defamatory statements,” a release quoted by Reuters on Monday said. “They cannot serve as a basis for any constructive discussion.”

Last week, the IOC announced that it was exploring “a pathway” for athletes from Belarus and Russia to take part in international events under a neutral flag with certain restrictions. In February, it urged organizers of all events not to invite athletes from the two countries, ostensibly to protect the integrity of sports and to show solidarity with Kiev.

In response, Ukraine’s National Olympic Committee threatened to boycott the 2024 Summer Games in Paris. The proposal was harshly criticized by senior Ukrainian officials, including Zelensky.

Podoliak called the IOC a “promoter of war, murder & destruction” that takes “pleasure” in watching his country being hurt. He also claimed that the body takes “Russian money” to “platform [Russia] to promote genocide.”

Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said last week that the IOC wants “to sweep Russian war crimes under the rug” and “trample on the graves of thousands of innocent” Ukrainians.

Zelensky said he had sent a letter to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, to put pressure on him.

“We must be certain that Russia will not be able to use this or any other international sports events to propagandize aggression or its state chauvinism,” he said in a video address on Sunday.

The Kremlin declined to comment on the IOC’s proposal before formal measures are adopted. International sports has been affected by politics, spokesman Dmitry Peskov observed, adding that even the wording of the IOC’s initiative reflects this.