Olympics-Ukraine's Elina Svitolina calls for ban on Russians and Belarusians

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - WTA 250 - Monterrey Open - Club Sonoma, Monterrey, Mexico - March 3, 2022 Ukraine's Elina Svitolina celebrates after winning her second round match against Bulgaria's Viktoriya Tomova REUTERS/Daniel Becerril/File Photo

(Reuters) - Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina called on Wednesday for Russian and Belarusian athletes to be banned from the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris due to Moscow's invasion of her country, hours after Latvia joined Kyiv's threats of a boycott.

Ukraine's sports minister said on Tuesday that his country was seeking to secure widespread international support for banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from 2024 Olympics because of the war.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has opened the door for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals in Paris.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus, which aided President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago, have been largely banned from international competitions since.

Moscow says it is defending its own security and denies accusations of widespread atrocities in Ukraine.

Latvia's National Olympic Committee (NOC) said in a statement on Wednesday that participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Olympic Games under any flag was unacceptable as long as the war was ongoing.

"The Olympics are the biggest dream and ultimate privilege for athletes. They are the largest platform for inclusion and diversity in sports, capturing the attention of the world," Svitolina said in a statement on Twitter.

"With this in mind we must stick to banning Russian and Belarusian athletes... that we are united in the sanctions imposed against Russia and Belarus and that there are consequences for the heinous acts of their governments.

"Their lives cannot continue as normal and the world, nor the Russian and Belarusian people, can be ignorant of the atrocities they are committing in Ukraine."

Svitolina, married to fellow tennis player Gael Monfils, reached her career-high ranking of world number three in 2017 and has not played since giving birth to her first child last year.

(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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