Russia and Belarus are competing under a neutral flag at the European Sambo Championships in Haifa ©FIAS/YouTube

The Embassy of Ukraine in Tel Aviv has called on the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sports to cancel the European Sambo Championships due to the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.

The event got underway yesterday in the Israeli city of Haifa with Russian neutral sambists capturing eight of the 11 golds available on day one of competition.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus have been allowed to compete under a neutral banner by the International Sambo Federation (FIAS).

But their presence has angered the Ukrainian Embassy of Israel which issued a plea on social media yesterday urging authorities in the host country to pull the plug on the event.

"We protest to the Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Municipality of Haifa about the conduct of the European Sambo Championships," the Embassy of Ukraine wrote in a post on Facebook as reported by Ukrainian newspaper Strana.

"Russian and Belarusian athletes participate in the competition, sponsored by a Russian Government organisation boycotted by all western countries.

"As a partner in the military aggression against Ukraine, Belarus is also responsible for the crimes against humanity that happened in Ukraine.

"Russia uses competition as an ideological weapon to spread propaganda and whitewash its crimes.

"The extensive stage for these two criminal regimes is an insult to the memory of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens including more than 220 Ukrainian athletes who gave their lives in the fight for the future of a democratic European country.

"The Ukrainian side calls on the Israeli side to take all necessary measures to cancel and boycott the tournament."

Athletes from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Moldova, The Netherlands, Romania, North Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia are also competing in the European Championships.

The tournament is serving as a qualifier for this year’s World Combat Games, scheduled to be held in Saudi Arabia in October.

The FIAS, led by Russian official Vasily Shestakov, banned the flags and anthems of Russia and Belarus in response to the war in Ukraine last year but stopped short of implementing a blanket ban that had been recommended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The IOC is now recommending that athletes from the two countries should be permitted to compete under strict conditions of neutrality - a move which has been heavily criticised in Ukraine.

The Embassy of Russia in Israel has slammed Ukrainian diplomats for trying to "impose on the Israeli society an atmosphere of persecution of athletes on national and political grounds".

"Russia has always stood, stands and will stand for the development of equal sports interaction, excluding politicisation and tendentiousness, for honest and fair competitions, ensuring equal access for athletes of all countries without exception to full-scale participation in them," a statement from the Embassy of Russia of Israel read in a report by Russia’s official state news agency TASS.

"We only hear about 'ideological weapon', 'cancellations' and 'boycotts' only from representatives in the Kyiv regime and western countries who are trying to present everything in a perverted light and impose their agenda on others.

"The Russian Embassy in Israel wishes the Russian and Belarusian athletes further achievements at the tournament in Haifa and all subsequent competitions."

FIAS told insidethegames it did not wish to comment on the letter.