Ukraine athletes warned to ignore Russian provocation at Olympics


The acting sports minister of Ukraine, Matviy Bidnyi, has told his country’s athletes to keep a “cold head” and pay no attention to any provocation from their Russian counterparts at the Olympic Games this summer.

Speaking to the Guardian at the ministry of youth and sports in Kyiv, Bidnyi predicted that Russia will use its representatives in Paris as part of its propaganda operation and explained that recommendations have been drawn up to help the Ukraine team to avoid becoming embroiled in controversy.

Last July the ­Ukrainian fencer Olha Kharlan was expelled from the world championship for refusing to shake hands with her Russian opponent and there are concerns that any repeat would be claimed as a victory by the country that launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Asked what he would tell Ukraine’s Olympic team if one of Russia’s athletes, who will compete individually as neutrals, attempted to goad a reaction on the world stage, Bidnyi called for calm. “I would tell them to react in a proper way, a dignified way,” he said. “To understand and be aware that this provocation was made on purpose. To ignore such provocations with a cold head.”

Ukraine are braced for such situations to occur, although Bidnyi would not be drawn on the possible nature of any aggravation. “We will see what they will do,” he said. “Our sports­people are ready.”


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