(Moscow) The Kremlin said on Wednesday it wanted to “defend the interests” of Russian athletes “in every way possible”, following the IOC’s recommendation to reinstate them in international competitions under a neutral banner, on an individual basis and on the condition that they did not support the conflict in Ukraine.

“We will continue to defend the interests of our athletes in every possible way and will continue contacts with the IOC to protect (their) interests,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The Kremlin’s reaction comes after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday recommended the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competitions, while issuing restrictive criteria.

Said athletes will be able to re-enter international tournaments after validation by the federations concerned, only under a neutral banner, “in an individual capacity” and in compliance with international anti-doping regulations.

They must also not have “actively” supported the conflict in Ukraine and are not currently “under contract” to the Russian military or security organs.

The Russian Olympic Committee quickly denounced the “unacceptable” and “discriminatory” criteria, deploring “a farce”.

“The principles of the IOC and the UN are flouted,” lamented Tuesday at a press conference its president, Stanislav Pozdniakov, who demanded “equal conditions for athletes from all countries”.

However, the IOC has not settled the question of Russian and Belarusian participation in the next 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, an explosive question in view of the boycott threats from several countries including Ukraine and some of its allies.

The boss of the organizing committee of the European Games which will take place this summer in Krakow (Poland), for his part warned that Russia and Belarus could not participate in this meeting which brings together 18 Olympic disciplines from June 21 to July 2nd.

“Under no circumstances and in any way will athletes representing Russia and Belarus take part in our events,” Marcin Nowak told RFM FM radio.

He added that if international federations were to decide that the European Games will not qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics, the events in the disciplines concerned “simply will not take place”.

On March 10, the FIE (fencing) was the first federation to announce the reinstatement of Russians and Belarusians from April – the start of the qualification period for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games -, “subject to possible future IOC recommendations/decisions”.

This decision then sparked protests from many fencers, with more than 300 of them asking the IOC on Tuesday to back down.

Conversely, World Athletics reaffirmed on March 23 the maintenance of the exclusion of Russians and Belarusians in its events.