The Russian Athletics Federation is a step closer to regaining World Athletics membership ©Getty Images

A final plan for the reinstatement of the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) has been approved by the World Athletics Council.

The Council unanimously approved the reinstatement plan after being recommended to do so by World Athletics' Russia Taskforce chairman Rune Andersen.

Approval of the plan represents the start of the process by which the RusAF can regain World Athletics membership, having been suspended since November 2015 following allegations of state-sponsored doping.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe warned that this was "not the end but the beginning of a long journey, with an incredible amount of work for RusAF to do to rebuild trust".

World Athletics' Russia Taskforce, independent experts, and the RusAF all contributed to the 31-page reinstatement plan, which has been made public on Andersen's recommendation.

The plan includes the establishment of an independent anti-doping department within the RusAF, and also stipulates that the national governing body "shall fund an increased targeted testing program of a larger pool of athletes".

The independent anti-doping department must be established by June.

Working with international experts, the RusAF is compelled to "arrange and carry out in-depth independent audit procedures in order to determine the financial and operational status of RusAF".

The results of audit must be presented to the Ministry of Sport by September 1, with the deadline for a strategic plan up to 2024 - covering governance, finances, training and anti-doping - to be presented to the World Athletics Russia Taskforce August 1.

Irina Privalova is Acting President of the Russian Athletics Federation ©Getty Images
Irina Privalova is Acting President of the Russian Athletics Federation ©Getty Images

"The international experts believe the team that is now in place will be able to deliver on the milestones they have put in place," Coe added. 

"The Taskforce, with ongoing advice from the international experts, will monitor progress and report to Council."

RusAF President Peter Ivanov had to step down last month to comply with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanctions imposed on the country.

Ivanov - only elected RusAF leader in November - was appointed deputy head of the Federal Antimonopoly Service in Russia, which is responsible for the execution of the antitrust law and related areas, in January.

Russian Government officials are prohibited from serving on sports bodies until December 2022 under WADA sanctions.

However, writing a recommendation to the Council, Andersen noted that "the international experts also consider that the senior management that Mr Ivanov has put in place will be able to move the plan forward in his absence, under the temporary leadership of RusAF vice-president Irina Privalova as Acting President".

Andersen added that "the Taskforce stands ready to monitor the milestones and KPIs in the Reinstatement Plan carefully, so that it is able to report to future Council meetings whether RusAF is keeping up with the enormous work that will be required to implement the Reinstatement Plan successfully".

World Athletics' Council is due to meet next on March 17 and 18, when the Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA) scheme - which allows Russian competitors who meet certain criteria to take part at elite events - is set to be discussed.

An independent anti-doping department must be established by the Russian Athletics Federation ©Getty Images
An independent anti-doping department must be established by the Russian Athletics Federation ©Getty Images

Russian athletes are currently unable to compete in elite competitions, even under a neutral flag, meaning Mariya Lasitskene will be unable to defend her high jump title at this week's European Athletics Indoor Championships.

Anzhelika Sidorova also won the women's pole vault title as a neutral athlete at the last edition of the event.

The RusAF narrowly avoided being expelled from World Athletics for good last July when Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin stepped in to guarantee a $6.31 million (£4.8 million/€5.32 million) fine would be paid.

It stemmed from obstructing an anti-doping investigation into high jumper Danil Lysenko.

The Athletics Integrity Unit last month banned five officials for the cover-up, including ex-RusAF President Dmitry Shlyakhtin.

The cases against Lysenko and his coach are still ongoing.