Russia says it would welcome moves to allow its athletes at Olympics

FILE PHOTO: Head of the Russian Olympic Committee Stanislav Pozdnyakov walks though the crowd during a welcoming ceremony for the athletes upon their return from the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Moscow, Russia February 21, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

(Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday it would welcome moves by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow its athletes to compete in the Olympics, after the world's top sports body looked at options for their return to international events.

"Certainly, there is some attempt by the International Olympic Committee to allow our athletes to participate in international competitions," Stanislav Pozdnyakov, head of Russia's Olympic Committee, told reporters.

"Maybe in the future Olympic Games as well, of course, we welcome it entirely," he added, while cautioning against what he said were "additional conditions" imposed on Russian athletes.

Last week the IOC said the Olympic Council of Asia had offered Russian and Belarusian athletes the chance to compete in Asia, drawing an outcry from Kyiv which has called for Russian sportspeople to be banned over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that allowing Russia to compete at the 2024 Paris Games would be tantamount to showing that "terror is somehow acceptable", and said he had sent a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron.

Ukraine hopes to secure widespread international support for banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Paris Olympics, its sports minister said on Tuesday.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, many sports bodies have suspended Russian teams or athletes in protest, with the IOC recommending events in Russia be cancelled and Russian and Belarusian athletes compete under a neutral flag.

Russia's Olympics team had already faced restrictions after it was found to have flouted anti-doping rules, and it competed under a neutral flag at last year's Winter Olympics in Beijing.

The IOC is eager to include Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals at the Paris 2024 Olympics, which would mean competing under the Olympic flag, but it is still unclear if and how they could qualify.

Some national Olympic committees, including Olympic heavyweight the United States, have backed the possible return of those athletes under a neutral flag.

The IOC said after consulting stakeholders that "no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport".

(Reporting by Caleb Davis; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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