Ukraine's Zelenskiy presses drive to keep Russia out of Paris Olympics

FILE PHOTO: Olympic Rings are pictured in front of The Olympic House, headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the opening of the executive board meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in Lausanne, Switzerland September 8, 2022. Laurent Gillieron/File Photo

(Reuters) -Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday that allowing Russia to compete at the 2024 Paris Games was tantamount to showing that "terror is somehow acceptable".

Zelenskiy said he had sent a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron as part of his campaign to keep Russian athletes out of the Paris Games.

"Attempts by the International Olympic Committee to bring Russian athletes back into the Olympic Games are attempts to tell the whole world that terror is somehow acceptable," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

"As if you could shut your eyes to what Russia is doing in Kherson, Kharkiv, Bakhmut and Avdiivka," he said, referring to areas that have been under fire from Russian forces.

Russia, he said, must not be allowed to "use (the Games) or any other sport event as propaganda for its aggression or its state chauvinism".

The International Olympic Committee said last week that it welcomed a proposal from the Olympic Council of Asia for Russian and Belarusian athletes the chance to compete in Asia.

Zelenskiy spoke to Macron last week and has since launched a "marathon of honesty" to keep Russian athletes out of the Paris Games. On Saturday, he said there could be no neutrality in sports at a time when his country's athletes fight and die in war.

In his latest comments, Zelenskiy said the 20th century had seen too many mistakes that led to frightful tragedies.

"And there was a major Olympic mistake," he said, referring to the staging of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin when the Nazis were in power. "The Olympic movement and terrorist states definitely should not cross paths."

(Reporting by Ron Popeski and Nick Starkov; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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