Alisher Usmanov, left, pictured with IOC President Thomas Bach ©Getty Images

International Fencing Federation (FIE) President Alisher Usmanov has called for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to perform a U-turn and allow Russian athletes to participate under their own flag at Pyeongchang 2018.

Usmanov, the Uzbek-born Russian oligarch who has a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, claimed in a letter written on FIE-headed notepaper that the IOC decision to make Russian athletes compete neutrally at next year's Games "contradicts the principles of the Olympic Movement".

It makes him the first senior international sporting official to publicly criticise the IOC decision.

One of the principles of Roman law states: 'Nullum crimen, nulla poena sine culpa' - meaning no guilt – no punishment," Usmanov writes in a letter addressed to the IOC Executive Board but also sent to insidethegames.

"The innocent shall not be punished and put down to knees. 

"This approach violates the basic human rights and undermines the trust in law and justice.”

Alisher Usmanov, right, pictured with Russian President Vladimir Putin ©Getty Images
Alisher Usmanov, right, pictured with Russian President Vladimir Putin ©Getty Images

He then requests that the IOC "balance on the scales of Themis the necessity to punish the guilty with the aspirations of clean Russian athletes and their equal rights as members of the Olympic family”.

"Let us give the right at least to the winners of the 2018 Olympics to reach the summit of their dream and see the flag of the motherland in Pyeongchang's sky."

It comes three days after the IOC ruled that Russian athletes must compete under the name "Olympic Athletes from Russia" as a collective punishment for the "systemic manipulation" of the anti-doping systems at events including Sochi 2014.

A total of 25 athletes - who collectively won 11 different medals - have so far been retrospectively diqualified by the IOC.

Of these, 22 have so far lodged appeals with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Putin has criticised the decision but said he would not prevent Russian athletes competing neutrally in the South Korean County.

The full letter can be read here.