The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has cleared the path for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the upcoming Olympics under the Council of Asia, a statement released Wednesday said.
The IOC said it "welcomed and appreciated the offer from the Olympic Council of Asia to give these athletes access to Asian competitions" and said it had extended the offer to Russian and Belarusian athletes looking to compete in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.
Earlier this month, the committee met with members, stakeholders and global athlete groups to address the ongoing sanctions enforced against Moscow and Minsk and concluded that "no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport."
The IOC characterized the move to sidestep bans implemented on Russian and Belarusian athletes following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine as a "unifying mission" – though Kyiv sees it differently.
Deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Oleksii Dniprov fervently rejected the decision and in a statement said, "Claims that they will compete only as ‘neutral athletes’ and will in no way represent their state or any other organization in their country are outright lies."
"Neutrality no longer exists, it was destroyed by Russian barbarians on February 24, 2022," he added.
Dniprov, who also sits as vice president of Ukraine’s National Olympic Committee, pointed to previous games and claimed a third of the medal recipients were won by Russian soldiers and questioned, "Where are these ‘athletes’ now?"
"The white flag under which these athletes plan to march is stained with the blood of Ukrainian children, who are killed every day by the aggressor and those who support him," he added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier this week also called on French President Emmanuel Macron to ensure Russian and Belarusian athletes were barred from the international games.
The IOC said it will continue to bar the Russian and Belarusian flag from being flown, and no government official will be "invited to or accredited" with sporting events.
The IOC said its members expressed unanimous support to strengthen its commitments to Ukrainian athletes and the Ukrainian Olympic community.
The Olympic Council of Asia is reportedly awaiting final conditions set by the IOC and for any athletes competing from Russia or Belarus.
Asian qualifying events will be held in China beginning in September, according to ESPN.