The IOC wants all sporting events taken out of Russia and Belarus ©Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has told International Federations (IFs) to move any events scheduled to take place in Russia or Belarus out of the countries in its strongest condemnation yet of their attack on Ukraine.

Following a meeting of the Executive Board, the IOC has also resolved that no Russian or Belarussian national flags should be displayed at any sporting events.

Russia's flag and anthem are already banned from major events such as the Olympics, Paralympics and any World Championship organised by a World Anti-Doping Code signatory as part of sanctions imposed over the cover-up of a state-sponsored doping programme.

This should be extended to all other events, the IOC has decried, and called for Belarus' flag and anthem to be banned as well.

While Belarus was able compete under its flag at Beijing 2022 and Tokyo 2020, several National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus (NOCRB) officials - including President Viktor Lukashenko - were banned from the Games over allegations of discriminating against athletes who took part in anti-Government protests.

Viktor's father Alexander, the Belarusian President and the former NOCRB leader, was also banned.

Campaigners allege athletes have been tortured, detained without cause and not selected for national teams for expressing support for anti-Government protests, while team officials attempted to kidnap sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya at Tokyo 2020 and return her to Belarus.

Tsimanouskaya refused to board a flight and was later granted asylum by Poland.

Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg has lost the UEFA Champions League final  ©Getty Images
Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg has lost the UEFA Champions League final ©Getty Images

Following weeks of tension, Russian forces have launched a three-pronged assault on Ukraine, partly through Belarus and with Belarusian support.

Hundreds have already been killed in the violence.

The invasion has widely been condemned, including by United Nations secretary general António Guterres, who attended Beijing 2022 and has close ties to the IOC.

Several sporting events have already been stripped from Russia, including the UEFA Champions League final, all remaining International Ski Federation World Cup legs, a Formula One Grand Prix and FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

The IOC's latest intervention may force other IFs which have been slower to act, such as the International Volleyball Federation and International Swimming Federation, into making a decision.

Russia is scheduled to host both the World Swimming Championships (25m) and Men's Volleyball World Championship later this year.

Russia has not been able to compete under its own name and flag at the Olympic Games since Rio 2016.

The European Olympic Committees had called on all of its members to show solidarity with Ukraine ©Getty Images
The European Olympic Committees had called on all of its members to show solidarity with Ukraine ©Getty Images

The current World Anti-Doping Agency sanctions preventing this are due to have expired by the time of Paris 2024, but the IOC's call today for the country's flag and anthem to be banned from all sporting events would suggest further sanctions could be coming down the line.

The new IOC stance is one backed by the European Olympic Committees.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has told insidethegames that its acknowledges the IOC's statement, but will wait until the Board can meet before making a formal decision on whether to ban Belarus' flag.

"Over the next 48 hours the majority of the IPC Governing Board, including the IPC President, are travelling to Beijing for the Paralympic Winter Games," the spokesperson said.

"Therefore, nothing will be decided by the IPC until a meeting can be convened between the Board members."

The IOC yesterday set up a taskforce to coordinate humanitarian assistance to members of the Olympic community in Ukraine.