Russian athletes and officials have been barred from FIE competitions for almost a year due to the country's invasion of Ukraine ©Getty Images

Members of the International Fencing Federation (FIE) are set to vote on whether Russian and Belarusian fencers should be allowed to return to international competition next month.

The FIE has revealed that the contentious topic will be addressed when it stages its Extraordinary Congress on March 10.

The meeting will be held online, with members expected to be asked whether they are in favour of athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus being reintroduced to competition.

A vote on their participation was originally scheduled to be held at the FIE Congress in Swiss city Lausanne last November only to be postponed until March.

At the time of the decision, Joonas Lyytinen, who is head of the Finnish Fencing and Pentathlon Federation, described the extension of the ban as a "weak victory".

The matter is now set to be discussed at next month’s Extraordinary Congress with Russian and Belarusian fencers hoping the restrictions will be lifted to ensure they can vie for qualification places at next year’s Olympics in Paris.

Under FIE rules, Paris 2024 quota spots for individual and team competitions will based on ranking points earned between April 3 in 2023 and April 1 in 2024.

Athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus have been barred from international competition since last March when the FIE adhered to the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) recommendations to impose the ban due to the war in Ukraine.

Russian fencers are hoping to return to international competition to enable them to vie for Paris 2024 qualification spots ©Getty Images
Russian fencers are hoping to return to international competition to enable them to vie for Paris 2024 qualification spots ©Getty Images

The IOC is exploring a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals with the Olympic Council of Asia offering them the chance to participate in its events to qualify for Paris 2024.

The move has prompted criticism from many nations while Ukraine remains under attack from Russian forces.

Lyytinen told insidethegames that Nordic fencing federations remained in opposition to the potential return of athletes from Russia and Belarus.

"The Finnish Fencing and Pentathlon Federations stance is clear and it’s the same as of all the Nordic unions and Nordic NOCs," said Lyytinen.

"Russians and Belarusians should not be allowed to participate as long as the war in Ukraine continues and the idea of strict neutrality is not a feasible concept since even during the neutrality based on Russia’s state sponsored doping programme they did not adhere to it repeatedly."

The USA Fencing and the Ukrainian Fencing Federation (UFF) have previously urged the FIE to keep the sanctions in place.

Vadym Guttsait is UFF President as well as head of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine and the country’s Sports Minister.

Guttsait was on the same Unified Team which won Olympic team sabre gold at Barcelona 1992 as Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislev Pozdnyakov.

Emmanuel Katsiadakis has been the interim President of the FIE since Uzbek-born Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov agreed to step aside as President following the European Union's decision to impose economic sanctions on him over Russia's military assault on Ukraine.

Usmanov has also been sanctioned by the United States and the United Kingdom.