Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin said the Handball Friendship Cup involving players from Russia, Belarus and China was a "very important step in difficult times" ©Getty Images

Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin claims the country’s sporting ties with China demonstrate the "principles of maximum depoliticisation" as the Asian nation joined Russia in a friendly handball competition.

According to Russia’s official state news agency TASS, Chinese players represented a team, called "Goldhand United", in the Handball Friendship Cup, held at the Dynamo Volleyball Arena in Russian capital Moscow on April 22 and 23.

Russia’s women’s team emerged victorious, beating Belarus 37-27 in the final.

A Russian youth team comprising of players under the age of 20 defeated Goldhand United 39-26 to seal third spot.

Matytsin praised the Chinese Handball Association for taking part in the event at a time when Russia and Belarus had become pariah nations in sport following the widely-condemned invasion of Ukraine.

"I want to thank our Chinese colleagues and, of course, the Russian Handball Federation for this very important step in difficult times - a step that demonstrates our desire to continue to show commitment to Olympic values, helps to build the global sports community on the principles of maximum depoliticisation," said Matytsin, as reported by TASS.

Chinese players reportedly represented a team, named
Chinese players reportedly represented a team, named "Goldhand United", in the event in Moscow ©Getty Images

"Russia has always been a hospitable country and continues to be so.

"A number of important initiatives were discussed, I must say right away that countries will be provided with maximum assistance in the implementation of handball development programs both from an educational point of view and from the point of view of training camps and competitions.

"Today we see great potential in the development of this cooperation, especially since Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Xi Jinping have declared this year a cross year of sports."

Russia and Belarus have been cast into the sporting wilderness as a growing number of governing bodies impose sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

This includes the International Handball Federation, which has banned all teams and officials from Russia and Belarus from taking part in its events.

China is considered a strong ally of Russia and has refused to condemn the war in Ukraine despite increasing pressure from the United States and other Western nations to do so.

Earlier this month, Russian Handball Federation President Sergey Shishkarev claimed that a joint bid to stage the World Women’s Handball Championship in either 2029 or 2031 was discussed during a meeting with Wang Tao, head of the Chinese Handball Association.

Two-time Olympic medallist Anna Vyakhireva was among the top performers at the Handball Friendship Cup ©Getty Images
Two-time Olympic medallist Anna Vyakhireva was among the top performers at the Handball Friendship Cup ©Getty Images

Russia last hosted the World Women's Handball Championship in 2005 whereas China has never staged the event.

According to TASS, the National Federations of Russia and China signed a "memorandum of strategic cooperation" in November last year.

As part of the agreement, the two nations will reportedly hold joint training camps and play in friendly matches involving club and national teams.

It has also been reported by TASS that Shishkarev has signed a cooperation agreement with Belarusian Handball Federation chairman Vladimir Konoplev which is expected to see the four best teams from both Russia and Belarus compete in a joint men’s handball league.

Russian women’s head coach Lyudmila Bodnieva described the Handball Friendship Cup as an "invaluable experience for everyone".

Anna Vyakhireva, who claimed gold at Rio 2016 and silver at Tokyo 2020, was one of the stars on show for Russia.

"I like that this tournament was allowed to be held with the audience, we gave them emotions," added Vyakhireva after securing the Handball Friendship Cup title.

"This is the only reason that brings joy at the end of the match [with Belarus]."