Sabina Giliazova, right, was the first Russian judoka to compete as an individual neutral athlete in Doha ©Getty Images

Russian Judo Federation President Sergey Soloveychik has praised the International Judo Federation (IJF) for looking to "build bridges" between nations after allowing his athletes to compete at the World Judo Championships here - a move that led Ukraine to boycott the event.

A total of 17 Russian judoka are participating at the event in Qatari capital Doha after the IJF permitted them to return as individual neutral athletes (AIN).

Sabina Giliazova was the first of those to compete under the AIN banner, losing to France’s third seed Blandine Pont in the opening round of the women’s under-48 kilogram category here today.

The IJF’s decision came after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruled in late March that athletes from Russia and Belarus should be able to return to the global sporting stage as neutrals, provided they do not support the war in Ukraine and are not affiliated to the military.

Following independent background checks of all the delegation proposed by Russia and Belarus for the World Championships, eight Russian support staff and coaches were denied participation, while all the athletes passed the inspections.

Ukraine immediately withdrew from the event in protest of the IJF’s ruling, while Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin described the decision not to allow his country’s athletes to fight under the national flag as "discriminatory".

IJF President Marius Vizer has been praised by Russian Judo Federation leader Sergey Soloveychik for
IJF President Marius Vizer has been praised by Russian Judo Federation leader Sergey Soloveychik for "building peace through sport" ©IJF

But Soloveychik has hailed the IJF for giving his athletes the opportunity to compete at an event which counts towards qualification for next year’s Olympics in Paris.

"I express my gratitude to the world judo family for their commitment to the principles of building peace through sport and the values of judo at such a difficult time," Soloveychik, who stood down as President of the European Judo Union following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, told his country's official state news agency TASS.

"I thank the President of the International Judo Federation Marius Vizer and my colleagues for understanding that today we must build bridges between countries through sports and judo in particular, and not burn them.

"I am sure that together we will be able to remove any contradictions and decisions that run counter to the interests of sport."

Tomorrow is due to see three more Russians compete with Yago Abuladze and Abrek Naguchev set to contest the men’s under-66kg category and Aleskya Kuznetsova due to battle it out in the women’s under-52kg division.

Olympic champion and two-time European gold medallist Beslan Mudranov is not in Doha for the World Championships but believes his team-mates will be determined to emerge victorious after being frozen out of international competition.

"Our country will perform with dignity, I have no doubt about it," Mudranov told TASS.

"We will cheer for ours.

"More than a year has passed.

"When you don’t perform for a long time, you don’t know how your body and your psychology will behave…or maybe you will get into some kind of fuss in an attempt to win faster.

"I know one thing - our guys are now hungry, angry in sports, each of them went only for gold.

"With this attitude, we should be a serious result.

"You need to tune in to the fight for gold and, in spite of everything, go towards your goal, relieve yourself of the burden of responsibility and not think that all the attention is on you now."

Russia's Rio 2016 gold medallist Beslan Mudranov, left, believes the country's judoka are now
Russia's Rio 2016 gold medallist Beslan Mudranov, left, believes the country's judoka are now "hungry" and "angry" after being frozen out of international competition ©Getty Images

Ukraine's Sports Minister Vadym Guttsait has issued a letter to the IOC, accusing the IJF of an "unprecedented neglect of the Olympic Charter" by allegedly allowing military personnel to compete at the World Championships.

The letter included a list of athletes who were alleged to have contracts with the Russian armed forces or national security bodies.

IJF director general and Executive Committee member Vlad Marinescu has refuted the allegations, insisting that independent investigations revealed that all Russian athletes were employed by the Federal Training Center and found that there was no pro-war propaganda on their social media platforms.

"I want to emphasise that we are against the war and discrimination," said Marinescu.

"This is sport and there is no place here for politics."