A Russian flag led to a delegate from Belarus being stripped of their accreditation at Rio 2016 ©IPC

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has denied suggestions from Belarusian National Paralympic Committee (NPC) President Oleg Shepel that the country had been specifically warned against displaying Russian flags at Pyeongchang 2018.

Shepel suggested Belarus could have been singled out following the IPC confirming that only Russian athletes who meet "strict conditions" will be cleared to compete as neutrals at the Paralympic Games.

The IPC said they expect the Neutral Paralympic Athletes (NPA) team will feature between 30 and 35 athletes who will participate in five sports.

This is around half of the 69 who competed for the host nation at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, where Russia has been accused of running a covert doping operation.

Russian athletes will also march under the IPC flag at the Pyeongchang Opening Ceremony on March 9, while the Paralympic anthem will be played if an NPA competitor wins a gold medal.

It differs from the Rio 2016 Paralympics, where Russia was completely banned from participating.

A representative of the Belarusian delegation carried a Russian flag during the Opening Ceremony in the Brazilian city, in protest at Russia being banned from the event.

Andrei Fomachkin, a guest of the Belarus team, had his accreditation cancelled by the IPC as a result.

Shepel has suggested the IPC may have contacted them to ensure a similar event did not occur at Pyeongchang 2018.

The IPC sent a full decision to all members to explain the terms surrounding the NPA team ©Getty Images
The IPC sent a full decision to all members to explain the terms surrounding the NPA team ©Getty Images

"We have already received an official notification which reads that we are prohibited from holding any public actions even in hotels located outside the Olympic Village," he said, according to Pressball.

"It is one of the conditions of staying in the hotel.

"I don’t know whether other delegations received the similar notification, or it was addressed just to us.

"I want to underline that back then we managed to protect our team by saying that it was an action of support aimed at the athletes who had been groundlessly banned from the competition."

The IPC have refuted any suggestion Belarus had been specifically notified when contacted by insidethegames.

They stated that the whole of the IPC membership was sent a letter explaining their decision, announced on January 29.

It included details of the conditions surrounding the NPA team’s participation at the Games, including the reference to no flags being permitted.

"Para-athletes will compete in an NPA uniform that has no national identification that relates to Russia," a release on the new states.

"No Russian flags will be permitted in the vicinity of any venue associated with the Games."

In order to be included on the NPA team, which will be chosen by the RPC, athletes must have been drug tested at least twice in the last six months immediately preceding Pyeongchang 2018.

Those who are implicated "knowingly or unknowingly" in any of the investigations, including the McLaren Report, will be barred from competing, as will athletes who do not complete an RPC anti-doping education course.

The IPC have allowed Russians to participate as neutrals but maintained the suspension of the RPC as two of the outstanding criteria have not yet been met.

Russia has still not accepted the findings of the McLaren Report and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency remains non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency.

No official from the Russian Sports Ministry will be accredited for the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympics, the IPC confirmed, and the country's flag will not be permitted "in the vicinity of any venue associated with the Games".

The IPC claim they made the decision, taken following a two-day meeting of their Governing Board in Bonn, to recognise the progress made in Russia since they were banned from Paralympic competition prior to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

A "large majority" of the Governing Board agreed to allow Russians to participate as neutrals but the decision was not unanimous.

The Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Games are set to take place from March 8 to 18.