Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas is among a number of top European officials that are against the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes ©Getty Images

Political and sporting leaders from a growing number of European nations have voiced opposition to a move to reintroduce Russian and Belarusian athletes as threats grow over a possible boycott of next year's Olympic Games in Paris, while a key adviser to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of "genocide".

The IOC has agreed to further explore a pathway for athletes from Russia and Belarus to participate in international competitions under "strict conditions" of neutrality.

It has been claimed by the IOC that a “vast majority” of the Olympic Movement, including the Association of National Olympic Committees, were in favour of the move following recent consultation calls.

The IOC’s decision to consider the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes while Ukraine remains under attack been criticised by leading officials in Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Norway.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has slammed the decision as a "politically and morally wrong", insisting that it was a "time to strengthen isolation, not give in to Russia".

"Sport is a tool in Russia’s propaganda machine, ignoring that means siding with aggression," Kallas wrote on Twitter.

Today, Zelenskyy's adviser Mykhaïlo Podoliak took to Twitter to launch a blistering attack on the ethics of the IOC and its President Thomas Bach. 

"The IOC is a promoter of war, murder and destruction," he wrote.

"The IOC watches with pleasure as Russia destroys Ukraine and then offers Russia a platform to promote the genocide and encourages further killings.

"Obviously Russian money buys Olympic hypocrisy [and] doesn’t have a smell of Ukrainian blood. 

"Right, Mr. Bach?"

In response, the IOC told insidethegames: "The IOC rejects in the strongest possible terms this and other defamatory statements. 

"They cannot serve as a basis for any constructive discussion. 

"Therefore, the IOC will not further comment on them."

The Olympic Council of Asia has confirmed its readiness to welcome athletes from Russia and Belarus to its competitions, including this year’s delayed Asian Games in Hangzhou, and is devising a system for them to qualify for Paris 2024.

Polish Sports Minister Kamil Bortniczuk claimed that he “can’t imagine such a scenario” where athletes from Russia and Belarus on the global stage with the two nations set to be blocked from this year’s European Games in Kraków and Małopolska.

According to Polish press agency IAF, Bortniczuk also said that "Poland and Britain are at the forefront" of efforts to create a coalition against the participation of Russia and Belarus at Paris 2024.

Should athletes from the two nations be allowed to compete, Bortniczuk said Poland and other countries "may issue an ultimatum".

"This will depend on whether it will be possible to create an effective coalition countries without whom the Olympic Games couldn’t go ahead," said Bortniczuk.

The Polish Olympic Committee (PKOL) is among several National Olympic Committees in Europe that have also expressed their opposition over the possibility of Russia and Belarus participating at Paris 2024.

"Until the barbaric war in Ukraine comes to an end, no Russian and Belarusian athlete should participate in international events, including the Olympic Games," said PKOL President Andrzej Kraśnicki.

The Norwegian Sports Confederation (NIF) stressed that its position on the banning of Russian and Belarusian athletes remains "unchanged" and "stands firm".

"No final decisions have been taken by the IOC in the matter," a statement from the NIF read.

"For NIF, it is therefore important to follow the situation continuously and to have a close dialogue with its own member organization on this issue.

"In the current situation, we will continue to express our position clearly, and we will keep in close contact with our Nordic sister organizations on the matter."

A ban on Russian and Belarusian national symbols is expected to remain in place but the Latvian Olympic Committee argued that the participation of their athletes "under any flag is inadmissible".

Raimundas Lopata, a member of the Lithuanian Parliament, has also urged the Lithuanian National Olympic Committee to do all they can to stop Russia and Belarus from participating at the Olympic Games.

"We cannot watch with indifference the International Olympic Committee’s intention to allow Russians to participate in the Olympics," said Lopata.

"Russia is a terrorist state, so making concessions to athletes who were trained and continue their professional careers in that country is a humiliating bow to terrorism and a contempt for the victims of the war in Ukraine."

Criticism has also been levelled at the IOC by the Danish National Olympic Committee, while the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine is to hold Extraordinary General Assembly on Friday (February 3) to discuss whether to boycott Paris 2024 if Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to compete.

The IOC has claimed that "the vast majority of the participants in each of the consultation calls" supported its stance on the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.

These include a view that "no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport" and "Governments must not decide which athletes can participate in which competition and which athletes cannot".

The European Olympic Committees, OCA, Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa, Panam Sports and the Association of National Olympic Committees have expressed their support for the IOC stance on Russian and Belarusian participation.