Ukraine invasion: Russian and Belarusian athletes out of Paralympics in stunning U-turn | World News

Russian and Belarusian athletes have now been banned from the Winter Paralympic Games because of the Ukraine invasion – a reversal of a decision just a day before.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) made the announcement on Thursday in Beijing – just 24 hours before the games begin in Beijing.

At a news conference, IPC President Andrew Parsons said initially organisers were thinking of “the long-term health and survival of the Paralympic Movement”.

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But, since then, he said many other teams had contacted them “threatening not to compete” [if Russian and Belarusian athletes were allowed to join them].

Citing safety and security concerns and the desire to maintain “the spirit of fair play”, he said the IPC had changed its stance.

“In order to preserve the integrity of these Games and the safety of all participants, we have decided to refuse the athlete entries from RPC and NPC Belarus,” he added.

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On Wednesday the committee announced it would allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the Games, which open on Friday, but only as neutral athletes with colours, flags and other national symbols removed.The decision drew immediate criticism.

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Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nadine Dorries, had said the IPC had made the “wrong decision” and called on them to “urgently reconsider” – while the British Paralympic Association said it was “disappointed”.

Reacting to Thursday’s change of heart, she said: “I am pleased that the IPC has now come to the right decision and answered our call to ban Russian and Belarus athletes in response to [Vladimir] Putin’s barbaric, senseless invasion.

“The welfare of all the other competing athletes is of utmost importance and we are pleased the IPC also recognise that. The whole country will be fully behind our ParalympicsGB team at the Games.”

The British Paralympic Association had said: “We are disappointed by the International Paralympic Committee’s decision today.

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“We, like many participating Paralympic nations, already stated that given the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine we cannot see how the participation of Russia or Belarus in the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games is compatible with the objectives of the Paralympic movement.

The full Ukrainian team – made up of 20 athletes and nine guides – have travelled to China to compete in the Games, which officially open on Friday, following some initial uncertainty about their participation.

On Monday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended that sports federations suspend teams and athletes from the two countries – but added they could compete as neutrals if time or legal constraints prevented their removal.

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