Estonian Minister of Culture Piret Hartman has joined a joint statement by sports ministers and senior representatives of 34 states stressing that the full return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international sports is in the hands of the said aggressor states and depends on them ending the war they have started.
Estonia joins 34 states in pledge to support ban on Russia, Belarus in intl sports events
The joint statement says that the situation on the ground in Ukraine has only worsened since February 2022. The ministers said that they firmly believe that, given there has been no change in the situation regarding the Russian aggression in Ukraine, and as an imperative for fairness and solidarity towards the Ukrainian athletes whose facilities have been destroyed and who have had to leave their country, or stay to fight for the defense of Ukraine in which very many have lost their lives, there is no practical reason to move away from the exclusion regime for Russian and Belarusian athletes.
«Through their choices, action and ongoing invasion, Russia broke the Olympic Truce that has been continuously supported by the United Nations General Assembly since 1993,» they said.
«Russia's aggression and crimes continue in the heart of Europe in Ukraine. We have clearly expressed our position with like-minded countries already at the start of the war that Russian and Belarusian athletes have no place at the starting line together with our athletes. Estonia's position has not changed in this regard. We must continuously do everything we can to prevent the athletes of aggressor states from returning to the Olympic Games,» Hartman said.
The statement by ministerial and senior representatives highlights that in Russia and Belarus, sport and politics are closely intertwined.
«We have strong concerns on how feasible it is for Russian and Belarusian Olympic athletes to compete as 'neutrals' -- under the IOC's conditions of no identification with their country -- when they are directly funded and supported by their states. The strong links and affiliations between Russian athletes and the Russian military are also of clear concern,» it reads.
«As long as these fundamental issues and the substantial lack of clarity and concrete detail on a workable 'neutrality' model are not addressed, we do not agree that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed back into competition. Noting the IOC's stated position that no final decisions have been made, we strongly urge the IOC to address the questions identified by all countries and reconsider its proposal accordingly. We also note that Russia and Belarus have it in their own hands to pave the way for their athletes' full return to the international sports community, namely by ending the war they started,» the signatories said.
Hartman took part on Feb. 10 in a video meeting of 35 states' sports ministers at the invitation of the British secretary of state for culture, media and sport, focusing on the participation of the aggressor states' athletes in international sports. At the start of the meeting, the ministers were greeted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The joint statement has been signed by 25 European states, Canada, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Norway, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The signatories account for 50 percent of the medals from the Tokyo Summer Olympics and nearly 80 percent from the Beijing Winter Olympics.