Alexander Gusyatnikov of Russia and Natallia Tsylinskaya of Belarus opted to self suspend themselves from the European Cycling Union ©Getty Images

European Cycling Union (UEC) vice-president Henrik Jess Jensen has insisted that there has been "no formal contact" with the Russian and Belarusian officials that remain "self-suspended" from the continental governing body.

Alexander Gusyatnikov of Russia is a vice-president of the UEC along with Jess Jensen, while Natallia Tsylinskaya of Belarus is a member of the organisation’s Management Board.

The UEC has come under fire for not excluding the two office holders having banned athletes from Russia and Belarus from competing in response to the war in Ukraine.

British Cycling had called for tougher measures to be imposed by the continental governing body and the International Cycling Union (UCI), including the suspension of representatives of the two nations from high-ranking positions within the two organisations.

Following the UEC Congress - which British Cycling did not attend - it was announced in March that members of the National Federations "shall not officiate at any event organised by the UEC, nor attend or take part in any meeting, committee or forum of the UEC until further notice".

"Even though there was nothing in the UEC constitution which enabled their suspension, the Russian and Belarusian officials chose to suspend themselves, a decision which was accepted unanimously by the Management Board," Jess Jensen told insidethegames.

"The representative from British Cycling chose to stay away from the European Congress.

"But at that time the representatives from Russia and Belarus had already announced that they have a self-suspension.

"[British Cycling] decided themselves to stay away.

"They were the only nation."

Jess Jensen, who is head of the Danish Cycling Union and Council member at the UCI, admitted it was a "complex situation" but emphasised the need for "dialogue and discussion".

UEC vice-president Henrik Jess Jensen insisted
UEC vice-president Henrik Jess Jensen insisted "dialogue and discussions" was the best way to deal with the war in Ukraine ©ITG

"Even though they come from these countries, they are elected as persons not elected on behalf of their country," said Jess Jensen.

"We have to find this balance which can be hard to understand.

"Why don’t we suspend or exclude persons?

"This is not in our hands if we want to follow our own constitution.

"For me a constitution in cycling is like human rights.

"Even though there is a war going on you treat people in a human right way.

"There are many wars, unfortunately, going on around the world and we have to cope with it in a proper way.

"I think dialogue and discussion is the way of dealing with it.

"Weapon against weapon - there are no winners in my point of view.

"Keeping the contact and the dialogue but be aware of the signal we are sending is so important, a clear message."

The Danish official added: "We are most clever to keep the contact but keep it low but still keep this kind of one-by-one relation because after [the war] we still need to work together."

"I must stress that there is no formal contact between any member of UEC and these individuals.

"Absolute minimal contact is mostly through third parties and based on personal friendships and relationships built over many years.

"Personally, I have had no contact with either Alexander or Natalyia and I understand this is the case for almost all the Board."

According to the United Nations, at least 4,731 civilians have died in Ukraine since the beginning of the offensive on February 24, although it believes the true figure is far higher.

More than 7.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine, while the combined military death toll is thought to exceed 20,000.

Olympic bronze medallist Natallia Tsylinskaya of Belarus is a member of the UEC's Management Board ©Getty Images
Olympic bronze medallist Natallia Tsylinskaya of Belarus is a member of the UEC's Management Board ©Getty Images

"The way the war is running is unacceptable, totally crazy," added Jess Jensen.

"On the other hand, you have to try to understand the position of these people [Gusyatnikov and Tsylinskaya] who are a member of the cycling family.

"The flag and national anthem will be kind of offending, so be aware of the signal you send but they are persons."

The UEC announced in June a Solidarity and Unity Aid crowdfunding scheme to help cyclists affected by the war in Ukraine.

"We use a lot of resources to help these [Ukrainian] riders who are unfortunately hostages outside their country due to this terrible war," said Jess Jensen.

"We are very clear that we can’t accept this war and the way Mr Putin is attacking his neighbours.

"There’s a lot of dilemma in it, of course because the Russian and Belarusian Federation are also member of European Cycling as they are in UCI.

"But as a member of the IOC [International Olympic Committee] family we also have to look into what is the top level message and therefore we try to keep the balance of sanction which are down politically but also keep relationships so we don’t destroy the relationship human by human.

"We accept people that are against this way and distance themselves.

"On the other hand, we have the awareness of not mixing."