Olympics-Ukrainian Heraskevych unhappy with move to allow Russians to compete in Asia

FILE PHOTO: 2022 Beijing Olympics - Skeleton - National Sliding Centre, Yanqing District, Beijing, China - February 11, 2022. Vladyslav Heraskevych of Ukraine holds a sign with a message reading 'No war in Ukraine'. IOC/OBS/Handout via Reuters

(Reuters) - Ukrainian skeleton racer Vladyslav Heraskevych criticised the International Olympic Committee on Thursday for considering allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to international competitions.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, many sports bodies have moved events and suspended Russian teams or athletes, while sponsors have ended contracts in protest against the war.

The IOC said on Wednesday the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) had offered Russian and Belarusian athletes the chance to compete in Asia.

"It's Russia who attacked Ukraine. And now if you compare the sacrifices of Russian athletes to the sacrifices of Ukrainian athletes, of course, it’s not comparable at all because our athletes are losing their families, and their homes, and some athletes are losing their lives on the front lines," Heraskevych told Reuters.

During the 2022 Beijing Olympics Heraskevych made a gesture of peace after completing his third run in the men's skeleton event, holding up a paper sign reading "NO WAR IN UKRAINE".

The 24-year-old Heraskevych, the first Ukrainian athlete to compete in skeleton at a World Championship, added that Russia participating in international events would be a propaganda opportunity for the country.

"They (Russians) will turn on the TV and see competitions. And there in these competitions, Russian athletes are competing with, I don't know like USA athletes, with Chinese athletes, with Korean athletes and the Russian people think, ‘yeah, everything is good. So, we are part of the world community...our country isn’t doing anything wrong'," he said.

"And the Russian country is doing the wrong thing. It's not right to invade another country and kill people.”

The controversy surrounding Russian and Belarusian athletes spilled into the Australian Open tennis Grand Slam tournament this week after a video emerged showing Serbian Novak Djokovic's father posing for pictures with fans holding Russian flags.

Organisers had previously banned such demonstrations and issued a reminder on Thursday about their policy on "inappropriate flags".

"Yeah it’s a big impact because Novak Djokovic is one of the biggest stars in sports," Heraskevych said.

"It makes a bad impact on the war, and for sure more and more Russian people would believe in Russian propaganda because of these actions."

(Reporting by Kurt Michael Hall, writing by Tommy Lund in Gdansk, editing by Ed Osmond)

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