Ukrainian world heavyweight champion boxer Oleksandr Usyk has urged IOC President Thomas Bach to halt the return of Russian athletes to international sport ©Getty Images

Ukrainian world heavyweight boxing champion Oleksandr Usyk has told International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach that achievements by Russian athletes at the Paris 2024 Olympics would be "medals of blood, deaths and tears".

Usyk has been a vocal critic of the military assault on Ukraine which prompted the IOC to recommend that athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus are excluded from international sport.

However, the IOC has moved to facilitate their return under "strict conditions" of neutrality, welcoming a proposal for both countries' athletes to compete in Asian qualifiers for Paris 2024 and vowing to continue to "explore a pathway" to make this happen.

This has sparked an angry response in Ukraine, which along with Latvia is considering a boycott of Paris 2024 if Russian and Belarusian athletes are present.

Usyk, a men's heavyweight Olympic gold medallist at London 2012, delivered a video message directly addressed to German official Bach urging him to halt the return of Russian athletes.

"You want to allow Russian athletes to compete at the Olympics," he said on Instagram.

"Russian armed forces invaded our country and kill civilians.

"Russian Army is killing Ukrainian athletes and coaches and destroying sports grounds as well as sports halls.

"The medals that Russian athletes are going to win are medals of blood, deaths and tears.

"Let me wish you to have peaceful sky above you and to be in a good health and happy."

Usyk was born in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014 but remains largely internationally recognised as part of Ukraine.

He served in Kyiv as a defence volunteer in the early weeks of the conflict last year, and established a charitable foundation to help Ukrainians impacted by the war.

Usyk is expected to face Britain's World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight title holder Tyson Fury in an undisputed championship fight later this year.

He retained his World Boxing Association (WBA), International Boxing Federation (IBF) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) titles in the heavyweight division with a split-decision victory against Britain's London 2012 super-heavyweight Olympic champion Anthony Joshua.

Usyk previously held the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO cruiserweight world titles.

All of professional boxing's governing bodies except the WBA have insisted they will not sanction any title fights involving Russian or Belarusian boxers due to the invasion of Ukraine.

Russian athletes have been largely excluded from international sport since the start of the war in Ukraine, but the IOC is exploring a
Russian athletes have been largely excluded from international sport since the start of the war in Ukraine, but the IOC is exploring a "pathway" for their return ©Getty Images

The International Boxing Association (IBA), which organised boxing events at the Olympic Games until its recognition was suspended by the IOC in 2019, last year decided to lift its measures against Russia and Belarus and to allow both countries' athletes to compete under their national flags.

The IOC has insisted that its sanctions, including a ban on Russian and Belarusian national symbols, would remain in place even if athletes return as neutrals.

The IBA is led by Russian official Umar Kremlev, who was controversially re-elected last year.

It has engaged in a public spat with the IOC over the latter's refusal to restore its recognition and boxing's place on the Olympic programme from Los Angeles 2028 due to ongoing governance concerns.