© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian servicemen lower to grave a coffin with the body of their brother-in-arms Volodymyr Androshchuk, who was recently killed in a fight against Russian troops near the Bakhmut town, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, during a funeral cerem
(Reuters) – Russia’s war against Ukraine has claimed the lives of 262 Ukrainian athletes and destroyed 363 sports facilities, the country’s sports minister, Vadym Huttsait, said on Saturday.
Meeting the visiting president of the International Federation of Gymnastics, Morinari Watanabe, Huttsait said no athletes from Russia should be allowed at the Olympics or other sports competitions.
“They all support this war and attend events held in support of this war,” Huttsait said, according to a transcript on President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s website.
The International Olympic Committee has recommended the gradual return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competition as neutrals. It has not decided on their participation in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Ukraine said on Friday its athletes will not be allowed to take part in qualifying events for the 2024 Games if they have to compete against Russians, a decision the IOC has criticised.
Reuters could not independently verify the number of Ukrainian athletes killed or how many facilities have been destroyed.
In the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion on Ukraine in February 2022, a number of Ukrainian national-level athletes have taken up arms voluntarily to defend their country.
Among those killed this year alone have been figure skater Dmytro Sharpar, who died in combat near Bakhmut, and Volodymyr Androshchuk, a 22-year-old decathlon champion and future Olympic hopeful.