The Olympic Games in Paris will open exactly one year from today. We, the Foreign Ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania commend the recent confirmation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that Russia and Belarus will not receive formal invitations to the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. However, we are deeply concerned about the IOC’s recommendation to open a path for athletes from Russia and Belarus to enter international competitions under the veil of neutrality. Such an approach is unjustifiable, as Russia and its accomplice Belarus continue to wage a brutal war against Ukraine to erase a sovereign, Olympic-participating nation.
While Russia’s aggression and atrocities inflicted upon Ukraine and its people, including its sporting community, have only worsened, it is unwarranted to ease any measures against Russia and Belarus, including those set by the IOC more than a year and a half ago. We cannot ignore the fact that those athletes are supported by their governments, as well as businesses backing up current regimes in Russia and Belarus. Moreover, we have seen over recent years that Russia has been exploiting the presence of “neutral“ athletes at international competitions in its state propaganda, which includes glorifying the aggressor’s military and promoting military recruitment. A ban on Russian athletes currently serving in the military does not adequately prevent that.
We commend the IOC’s attempts to clarify a status of neutrality of participating athletes from the aggressor nations. However, we also recall a joint statement in May by 36 countries, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which referred to the remaining concerns, e.g. about military connections of athletes, state funding and other forms of official support of both athletes and support personnel etc.
Furthermore, we cannot ignore the growing concerns from athletes and sporting organisations all over the world about the possible decision to let Russian and Belarusian athletes compete internationally together with Ukrainians who have to defend their country and freedom. Due to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine inter alia hundreds of Ukrainian athletes have lost their lives and Ukrainian sporting facilities have been destroyed or damaged as part of deliberate attacks on civilian infrastructure. Many athletes from Ukraine are still prevented from participating in sport events because of Russia’s attack on their country.
We are displeased with the recent remarks by the IOC, which undermine our nations’ concerns and call our stance “deplorable”, accusing us of double standards. Our countries are actively working to promote peace and stability around the world, as responsible members of the rules-based international community. Our current focus is on supporting Ukraine, as Russia’s war in Ukraine is of unprecedented scale since the Second World War.
The desire to change borders by force, as well as the scale of war crimes and crimes against humanity constitute a gross violation of the United Nations Charter, and undermine the core principles of the Olympic movement.
Therefore, we call upon the IOC as one of the largest and most influential sports organisations in the world to uphold its own restrictive measures as long as Russia continues its unprovoked, unjustified and illegal war of aggression and not let Russian and Belarusian athletes return to the Olympic Games in any status. It is the duty and responsibility of the whole international community to ensure that the Olympic Games remain a symbol of sportsmanship, excellence and respect.
We strongly urge you to protect the principles of the Olympic Charter and the integrity of the competition, and to reconsider your approach regarding the participation of athletes of Russia and Belarus in the upcoming Olympic Games. This has to be done for the sake of the Ukrainian sporting community, athletes around the world, and future generations who deserve to live in a world where aggression as a political tool has been completely discredited and the values we hold dear as part of the Olympic movement have been maintained.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
of the Republic of Estonia
Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš
Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs
of the Republic of Latvia
Minister of Foreign Affairs
of the Republic of Lithuania