Baltic Prime Ministers decry idea of Russian athletes at Olympics

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The Prime Ministers of the three Baltic states were meeting in Tallinn, Estonia on February 3 with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas playing host to counerparts Krišjānis Kariņš from Latvia and Ingrida Šimonyte from Lithuania.

Inevitably, Russia's war in Ukraine was in the foreground at a joint press conference of the PMs.

In particular, Kallas spoke out against the idea floated by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be permitted to compete in next year's Olympic Games in Paris, France.

"Russia has killed hundreds of Ukrainian athletes, including Olympic champions and world champions. To allow athletes to enter the Olympic arena at the price of the blood of Ukrainians – is that fair play?" asked Kallas.

"Taking into account that Russia is using sport as a propaganda tool and their athletes are actually Russian soldiers – when you're looking at the total of [Russian] Olympic medallists then 45 of them were actually members of the Russian army, and at the Beijing Winter Olympics one in three members of the Russian team were actually serving in the Russian army," said Kallas.

"It is disgraceful to place Ukrainian athletes in the situation where they have to face Russians in the sports arena," she added."What is the message if we allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the Olympics? I hope that the Olympic and sports movement will face up to its own values and will make the right decision."

Prime Minister Šimonyte said she hoped the upcoming Vilnius NATO summit would represent a "breakthrough" and would devise "a European security architecture which does not include Russia". On the Olympic question she said:

"There is no neutrality in the current world. Boycotting the Olympic Games is one decision but it might not be as impressive as keeping Russian and Belarusian sportsmen out of the games altogether. So I thik this is the preferred option."

Kariņš said the idea of Russian and Belarusian athletes competing was "morally reprehensible"  and "simply the wrong way to go."

"It seems that Moscow plans to continue the war in Ukraine, so we must understand that in the long term we will have to help Ukraine as much as possible, and if we stick together, we will also be able to resist Russian imperialism," Kariņš said.

The full press conference can be viewed in the video above.


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