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2 Apr, 2024 12:28

Olympic officials asked Ukraine to spy on Russian athletes – IOC chief 

Thomas Bach has been interviewed by notorious pranksters Vovan and Lexus
Olympic officials asked Ukraine to spy on Russian athletes – IOC chief 

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has admitted to a pair of pranksters that Ukrainians have been asked to spy on Russian athletes online so that they could be banned from the upcoming Paris Games.   

In a video-call posted on Tuesday, in which one of the Russian duo known as Vovan and Lexus impersonated an African official, Bach claimed that by sanctioning Russian athletes, the IOC is “punishing those who are responsible for the annexation.”  

The IOC chief was apparently referring to the former Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye, which overwhelmingly voted to join Russia in public referenda in 2022. They followed the Crimean Peninsula, which did the same in 2014 after a Western-backed coup in Kiev.  

“No Russian anthem can be played and no Russian flag can be raised [at the Paris 2024 Olympics],” the IOC president stated.

Answering a question on whether Russian athletes who support the Ukraine conflict deserved the right to take part in the Olympics, Bach revealed that the IOC has a special commission which monitors public statements by athletes in support of the government in Moscow.   

“We have a special supervisory commission together with an independent company which is monitoring the internet, the media, and public declarations,” he stated.   

“We also offered the Ukrainian side – and not only offered, but also asked to provide us with their knowledge about the behavior of such athletes or officials,” Bach further revealed.  

He stressed that any athletes found to have expressed support for the Russian government will be banned from the Olympics.   

Russian athletes are allowed to participate in the Games as neutrals in individual sports, but are barred from team events.  

After the start of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022, the IOC recommended that athletes from Russia and its close ally Belarus should not be allowed to compete in international events. In December last year, the body ruled that a limited number of people from the two countries could participate in the Olympics as AINs (individual neutral athletes).  

In March, the international body announced that the maximum number of Russians who could qualify for the Paris Games was 55, while Belarus is limited to 28 athletes. However, according to IOC director James Macleod, the two nations are unlikely to meet the quotas, and around 36 Russian and 22 Belarusian athletes are expected to make it to the Games.  

Several top-ranking European officials, including Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, have fallen for prank calls by Russian duo Vovan and Lexus in recent months, during which the politicians revealed their thoughts on sensitive topics such as the Ukraine conflict.

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