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Russia and Belarus Winter Paralympians spared as sport continues to isolate both countries


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Russia continued to attract sporting sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine but Russian and Belarusian athletes who have gathered in Beijing for the Winter Paralympics earned a reprieve on Wednesday as they have been allowed to compete — albeit as neutrals.

The Winter Paralympics begin on Friday and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) decided that Russian and Belarusians will compete without their country’s flag — a decision that was slammed by other countries.

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Britain condemned the IPC’s decision while the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee said they were “disappointed” with the outcome. Canada said they wanted to review the membership status of Russia and Belarus in the IPC.

The athletes of Ukraine and Global Athlete group, an international athlete-led pressure body, were left fuming, saying many Russian Olympians and Paralympians are members of the Russian military.

“Sports administrators are choosing bloodshed and profits over principle and stakeholders,” their joint statement read.

The European Olympic Committees (EOC), however, said Russian and Belarus athletes and officials will not participate in the 2022 Winter European Youth Olympic Festival to be held in Vuokatti, Finland, from March 20-25.

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“In order to safeguard the well-being of such young athletes, as well as protect the integrity of the event, the EOC believes Russian and Belarusian athletes should not compete in Vuokatti in any capacity,” it said.

Since the start of what Russian President Vladimir Putin has called “a special military operation” last week, Russian and Belarusian teams and athletes have found themselves frozen out from international competitions across sports.

Belarus has been a key staging area for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Motorsport’s governing body FIA had said Russian and Belarusian drivers could still take part in its competitions in a neutral capacity but Motorsport UK banned license holders from both countries from racing in Britain.

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That decision will affect Formula One driver Nikita Mazepin who will not be able to race for the Haas F1 team in the British Grand Prix on his Russian license.

RUSSIAN OLIGARCHS TARGETED

Several Russian companies have also seen sporting organizations cut ties with them, with Premier League club Everton being the latest to suspend their partnership with three Russian companies — USM Holdings, MegaFon and Yota.

All three companies are linked to billionaire and oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who was sanctioned by the European Union for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Chelsea owner and fellow Russian Roman Abramovich has not been sanctioned yet but his name has been furiously debated in parliament and the billionaire could even part with his prized asset he bought in 2003.

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“Abramovich is currently trying to sell all his villas in England. He also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly now,” Swiss business tycoon Hansjoerg Wyss, who is considering buying the London club, said. Chelsea are the reigning European champions.

Former Norwich City manager Daniel Farke, who had signed with Russian club Krasnodar in January, terminated his contract by mutual consent on Wednesday, with his coaching staff leaving with him.

Farke told German magazine Kicker the “loss of all sporting perspectives” and their families calling for them to return home amid the conflict led to his decision to quit even before he had managed his first game.

Former Ukraine international Yaroslav Rakitskiy also severed ties with Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg, with the club saying the 32-year-old, who won 54 caps for Ukraine, requested early termination of his contract.

Ex-UEFA president Michel Platini, serving a six-year ban from soccer over a corruption scandal, called on Putin to stop the war.

“I call on the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, with whom I have often discussed football and sport, to immediately stop the shooting and bombing in Ukraine,” he said in a statement.

“To put an end to this aggression in order to initiate a real diplomatic dialog without delay in favor of peace.” (Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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