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Latvia would not send athletes to Olympics if Russia and Belarus included

Latvia would not send athletes to Olympics if Russia and Belarus included
Gold medalists Nauris Miezis, Karlis Lasmanis, Edgars Krumins and Agnis Cavars of Team Latvia pose with their gold medals for the 3x3 Basketball competition on day five of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Aomi Urban Sports Park on July 28, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

VILNIUS, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Latvia would not send athletes to an Olympic Games that included Russian and Belarusian nationals while the invasion in Ukraine is ongoing, a spokesperson for the country's Olympic committee said on Wednesday.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said last week it is open to including Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals at the 2024 Paris Games and has opened a door to them competing in qualifiers.

“If we need to make a decision now, of course we will not go to such competition. But the Paris Games is a year and half away. We will see what happens in Ukraine – we hope Ukrainian people will win this war, and we will be in a new situation,” the spokesperson told Reuters.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, including from territory in Belarus, and has been firing barrages of missiles and drones at Ukrainian cities further from the front lines.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the IOC into banning them from the sport’s extravaganza, but there has been little public support yet from other nations for an outright ban on Russians at Paris.

The Paris 2024 Olympics will be held from July 26-Aug. 11 and the Paralympics from Aug. 28-Sept. 8.

Latvia, which borders Russia, has been one of the strongest supporters of Ukraine in the European Union and NATO, together with its Baltic neighbours Estonia and Lithuanian.

Neither the Lithuanian nor Estonian National Olympic Committees are considering boycotts of Paris Olympics, their chairs told domestic media on Tuesday.

Foreign ministers of the three countries and Poland on Tuesday agreed that Russian and Belarusian athletes in Olympics are “unacceptable” so long as the invasion continues, Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics said.

The Baltic ministers of sport will meet on Thursday to discuss a joint appeal to the IOC to ban Russian and Belarus sportsmen from all international competitions, Lithuanian Minister of Education, Science and Sport said on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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