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30 Jan, 2023 11:00

Zelensky aide lobs accusations at Olympic bosses

Mikhail Podoliak claimed the IOC took “Russian money” to promote “war, murder and destruction”
Zelensky aide lobs accusations at Olympic bosses

A senior aide to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has criticized the International Olympic Committee (IOC), after it suggested that athletes from Russia should be allowed to compete in the games with certain restrictions.

Mikhail Podoliak called the IOC a “promoter of war, murder & destruction” that takes “pleasure” in watching the destruction of his country. He also implied that the IOC was taking Russian bribes for its decision to “platform [Russia] to promote genocide.” The allegations, for which the Ukrainian official offered no evidence, came in a tweet on Monday.

The tweet appears to be Podoliak’s response to the IOC’s announcement last week that it was exploring “a pathway” for athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete in future events, including the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris. They would not be able to do so under a national flag and must not be “actively supporting” the Russian military operation against Ukraine, according to the plan.

Officials in Kiev reacted to the news with outrage. The Ukrainian National Olympic Committee threatened to boycott the event in France, should athletes from Russia and Belarus be allowed to compete. Zelensky said he had sent a letter to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, to pressure him to prevent such a decision.

The IOC’s Executive Committee has imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Russia and Belarus, including urging organizers of international events not to invite athletes from those countries.

On Sunday, the IOC released a letter from Alexandra Xanthaki, the UN special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, which expresses concerns with the measures taken against the countries.

Speaking on behalf of a special panel of independent experts that advises the UN on human rights issues, she stated the IOC’s action “raises serious issues of non-discrimination” because the committee targeted athletes and officials “based solely on their nationality, as a matter of principle.”

The IOC’s provisions that allowed Russians and Belarusians to compete with neutral status as an exception “only applied in situations where the full restriction of their participation was not possible,” and thus concerned the panel too, the letter added.

Russia has long alleged that international sports organizations have been targeting its athletes for political reasons. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would not comment on the IOC’s actions until a formal decision is made, stating that the published initiative had “too much politics” in its wording.