Russian handball players are currently banned by the International Handball Federation ©Getty Images

The Russian men's handball team coach Velimir Petković has called the decision to sanction athletes from Russia and Belarus for the actions of their respective Governments unfair, with the national teams still unable to compete at International Handball Federation (IHF) events.

Following the invasion of Ukraine, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended athletes and officials from the two countries culpable for the attack should be sanctioned.

This attack also breached the Olympic Truce, a peace period between before the Olympics and after the Paralympics.

Speaking to Russia's official state news agency TASS, Petkovich said politics in these countries should not then affect the sports teams by association.

"Everything I say will be in the Western press tomorrow, including in Germany, and it remains to be seen how my words will be interpreted," said Petković.

"Therefore, I will be careful in my expressions. 

"I always ask myself one question: why should my players and the players of the Belarusian national team be to blame for the situation that is happening in the world? 

"Even politicians cannot resolve it, but they demand this from the athletes, this is not good."

Yuri Shevtsov is the head coach of the Belarus men's team ©Getty Images
Yuri Shevtsov is the head coach of the Belarus men's team ©Getty Images

Yuri Shevtsov, a member of the gold medal-winning Soviet Union from the Seoul 1988 Olympics and Belarusian men's national team coach, echoed this sentiment.

"We heard about it, but everything is still at the level of rumours," said Shevtsov.

"When they start taking action, then there will be a reason for talking. 

"Now we can only take those steps that depend on us.

"We are athletes, our task is to unite the world. 

"Everyone is ready to play with us, but there - from above - they don't let us. 

"Therefore, we can only train and wait, little depends on us."

The Russian Handball Federation have been invited to IHF and European Handball Federation events since last year, but are still unable to compete.