"Such a situation is unacceptable for our state," said Ukrainian Sports Minister Vadym Gutzeit.

"Our position remains unchanged: as long as the war continues in Ukraine, Russian and Belarusian athletes should not participate in international competitions," he said on Facebook.

"If we are not heard, I do not exclude the possibility that we boycott and refuse to participate in the 2024 Olympics", he claimed, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is firmly opposed to any attempt to reinstate Moscow and Minsk.

The IOC had said on Wednesday that ways to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes needed to be "further explored".

“No athlete should be banned from competition on the basis of their passport alone,” the Committee said, drawing the wrath of Ukraine and other European countries.

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) for its part proposed Thursday to integrate these athletes into its regional competitions such as the Asian Games, expressing its support for the position of the IOC.

The COA's proposal could in particular allow banned athletes to participate in its regional qualifying events, some of which have already started, for the 2024 Olympics.

Michelle Donelan, the British Minister for Culture who is also responsible for Sport, for her part considered that the IOC initiative was "very far removed from the realities of war".

"Illegal War"

"We condemn any move that would allow (Russian) President Vladimir Putin to legitimize his illegal war in Ukraine," she said.

"IOC President (Thomas) Bach himself condemned Russia less than a year ago for violating the Olympic truce and asked to + give peace a chance +", recalled Ms. Donelan.

The head of the Danish Olympic Committee, Hans Natorp, stressed that his country was also strongly opposed to Russia's return to the Olympic world.

"Russian aggression in Ukraine is intensifying," he tweeted.

"Under these circumstances, it would be unacceptable to allow Russia and Belarus to participate in sporting events."

"We firmly maintain our position. It is not yet time to consider their return," he added.

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, however wanted Russian athletes to be able to participate in the Olympics but under a neutral banner.

"I think this is a moment for sports people and that athletes should not be deprived of their competition. But I think and I plead, like a large part of the sports movement, for there not to be delegation under the Russian banner", she explained on the France 2 television channel. She would prefer to see Russian athletes compete "under a neutral banner", as has already been done.

The organizing committee of the Paris Olympic Games, however, has no say in deciding the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.

The IOC recalled on Wednesday that it is the international federation of each sport concerned at the Olympics which has "sole authority" in the matter.

© 2023 AFP