Olympics-Ukraine must consider its interests in taking part in Paris 2024 says minister

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Paris candidacy for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games is seen in front the Eiffel tower in Paris, France, September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

(Reuters) - Ukraine must consider whether taking part in next year's Paris Olympics is in the nation's interests but participation is impossible unless the IOC alters its "non-constructive position," Ukraine's sports minister said on Saturday.

Matviy Bidnyi, Ukraine's minister of youth and sport, was speaking on national television a day after the International Olympic Committee said Russian and Belarusian athletes could compete in Paris as neutrals without flags, emblems or anthems.

"The decision to participate should be made based on what it will bring to the country, what the reaction will be and how much it will bring us closer to victory," Bidnyi said, referring to Ukraine's 21-month-old war with Russia.

"We should not make rash decisions. It will be a balanced decision and we have to communicate it to the public. We will weigh the pros and cons very carefully."

Russians and Belarusians had initially been banned from competing internationally following Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, for which Belarus has been used as a staging ground.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Friday condemned the IOC decision as "shameful". Russia's Sports Minister, Oleg Matytsin, called the conditions set by the IOC for Russian athletes' participation at the Olympics "discriminatory."

Bidnyi said Ukraine could work towards participating if leaders came to the conclusion that it would "promote our position to the world".

"If we continue to see the absolutely non-constructive position of the IOC, to continue to tolerate the participation of the henchmen of the bloody (Russian) regime, this will make our participation impossible."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has for months tried to rally world support for his call for all Russian and Belarusian athletes to be barred from the Games.

However, he has not raised the question of whether Ukrainians will take part alongside them competing as neutrals.

(Reporting by Ronald Popeski; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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