A group of 35 nations are expected to call on the IOC to ban Russia and Belarus from Paris 2024 ©Getty Images

A group of 35 nations are expected to demand that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) bans Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Paris 2024 Olympics after an international summit, but Poland's Sports Minister suggested that a refugee team of dissidents could compete as a "compromise".

Participants have stopped short of committing to a boycott of the Games should Russia and Belarus take part.

Lithuania's Jurgita Šiugždinienė summarised her understanding of the summit's outcome.

"We are going in the direction that we would not need a boycott because all countries are unanimous," she said, as reported by Reuters.

Polish Sports Minister Kamil Bortniczuk has suggested it is "not time to talk about a boycott yet", but outlined a possible solution.

"It may be a compromise for the IOC to create a team of refugees, which could include people of Russian and Belarusian nationality who are dissidents," Bortniczuk said.

He was also quoted by Reuters as saying "most voices - with the exception of Greece, France [and] Japan" were in favour of a ban.

The French Government said earlier this week that the ultimate decision rested with the IOC, but a "decision must be taken by the summer".

A formal collective statement is set to follow from today's call in "the coming days", which was hosted by newly-appointed United Kingdom Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer and featured an opening address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Zelenskyy has been a notable critic of the IOC's move to "explore a pathway" for the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes under a neutral banner in international sport.

He has insisted that "neutrality does not exist" and "any neutral flag of Russian athletes is stained with blood", but IOC President Thomas Bach has rebuffed an invite by the Ukrainian President to the embattled city of Bakhmut and warned that a boycott of Paris 2024 would be "a violation of the Olympic Charter".

Ukraine and Latvia are two nations considering a boycott if Russian and Belarusian athletes are present in any capacity at next year's Olympics.

Zelenskyy thanked European nations for their support since Russia's full-scale invasion in February last year on today's call.

"If the Olympic sports were killings and missile strikes, then you know which national team would occupy the first place," he said.

"It is not important whether this national team would have its official flag, the state tricolour."

Zelenskyy also claimed that 228 Ukrainian athletes and coaches had died since the invasion of Ukraine, and argued "there are only a few isolated voices that are quickly fading away" declaring opposition among Russian athletes.

He cautioned that Russia would force its athletes to "play along with the war propaganda" at major sports competitions, and claimed "terror and Olympism are two opposites".

The Ukrainian President concluded by criticising the IOC for the stance it has taken.

"While Russia kills and terrorises, representatives of the terrorist state have no place at sports and Olympic competitions," Zelenskyy said.

"And it cannot be covered up with some pretended neutrality or a white flag.

"Because Russia is now a country that stains everything with blood - even the white flag.

"It must be recognised.

"And this must be recognised, in particular, at the level of the International Olympic Committee.

"The International Olympic Committee needs honesty.

"Honesty it has unfortunately lost.

"Honesty that will help stop Russian terror and bring peace closer."

The IOC said it does not "comment on interpretations from individual participants of a meeting whose overall content is unknown".

Poland's Sports Minister Kamil Bortniczuk has proposed that a dissident group of athletes from Russia and Belarus represent their countries at Paris 2024 ©Twitter
Poland's Sports Minister Kamil Bortniczuk has proposed that a dissident group of athletes from Russia and Belarus represent their countries at Paris 2024 ©Twitter

Frazer claimed it had been a "very productive meeting", and promises that the UK's position is that "as long as [Vladimir] Putin continues his barbaric war, Russia and Belarus must not be represented at the Olympics".

Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland had all already voiced their opposition to Russia and Belarus' presence too.

Canadian Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge also said after the summit that "Russian and Belarusian athletes must be banned from the 2024 Olympic Games".

A full list of participants has not been published, but France, Germany, the United States and Canada are among the leading sporting nations whose presence has been confirmed.

Russian and Belarusian athletes have been largely frozen out of international sport since the invasion of Ukraine, with the IOC recommending their exclusion from competitions.

It welcomed an Olympic Council of Asia proposal for both countries' athletes to compete at its Paris 2024 qualifiers as neutrals in December, and has recently vowed to continue to "explore a pathway" for their return after a series of consultation calls last month.

The IOC has insisted that this would be under "strict conditions" of neutrality with Russian and Belarusian national symbols remaining banned, and has expressed "solidarity" with Ukraine.

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