Russia's Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin, left, has met with officials from Venezuela, Bolivia, Honduras and Cuba during the ALBA Games ©Getty Images

Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin has held meetings with officials from Venezuela, Bolivia, Honduras and Cuba seeking to advance ties with Central and South American nations.

Russia and its ally Belarus have been largely frozen out of international sport for more than a year because of the war in Ukraine, leading to it seeking participation in events with members of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa alliance better known as BRICS and countries in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and Commonwealth of Independent States.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last month eased its recommendations on the participation of both countries' athletes in international sport, allowing them to participate as individual neutrals provided they have not supported the conflict and are not affiliated to the military.

International Federations for archery fencing, skateboarding, table tennis, taekwondo, triathlon and wrestling have since announced their intention to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to their competitions, although others including athletics, basketball, equestrian, sport climbing and surfing have maintained bans while the war is ongoing.

Russia has been permitted to compete at the ALBA Games in Caracas under its own flag ©Getty Images
Russia has been permitted to compete at the ALBA Games in Caracas under its own flag ©Getty Images

Russia has recently moved to strengthen ties in sport with Central and South America.

Its athletes are performing under their own flag at the ongoing Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) Games in Venezuela's capital Caracas, although the IOC continues to recommend a ban on Russian and Belarusian national symbols.

Matytsin told Russia's official state news agency TASS that the invitation to the ALBA Games was "very valuable in terms of both strengthening our bilateral cooperation and demonstrating opposition to attempts to politicise sports and discriminate against our Russian athletes".

He has invited Venezuelan athletes to the International University Sports Festival in Yekaterinburg.

The Festival is scheduled for August 19 to 31 this year and is expected to feature competitors from at least 16 countries.

It was organised after the Russian city had its hosting rights for this year's International University Sports Federation World University Games suspended.

Matytsin described Latin America as a "zone of special attention" in Russia's foreign policy strategy under President Vladimir Putin, who has had the Olympic Order withdrawn because of the war in Ukraine.

An agreement has been reached with Venezuela outlining plans for invitations to training camps, joint-scientific research and the exchange of national teams.

Matytsin also agreed with Honduras' new National Commissioner for Sports, Physical Culture and Recreation Mario Moncada to sign a memorandum of cooperation in physical culture and sports during his visit to Caracas.

Honduras has expressed an interest in participating at the International University Sports Festival.

A similar memorandum of cooperation is expected with Bolivia next year, after a meeting between Matytsin and the country's Minister of Health and Sports of Bolivia Jason Pinto.

Russia's Sports Minister also met the chair of Cuba's National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation Osvaldo Vento Montiller, discussing plans for joint training and events in 20 sports.

The proposed return to international sport for Russian and Belarusian athletes has proved controversial, with Ukraine's Government warning its representatives will boycott events where they are present.

Critics say there should be no place for Russia and Belarus in sport while the war is ongoing, but the IOC has claimed it has "found some middle ground".

The five continental associations including Panam Sports have also backed the IOC's position.