Presidents of NOCs from Latvia Janis Buks, left, Lithuania Daina Gudzinevičiūtė, centre, and Estonia Urmas Sõõrumaa, right ©LTOK

National Olympic Committee (NOC) Presidents from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have renewed their opposition to Russia and Belarus' participation under any banner in international sport.

The three former Soviet republics have been among the harshest critics of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and have long insisted there should be no place for either country in sport.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) in March cleared the way for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as individual neutrals provided they do not support the war and are not affiliated to the military, having previously recommended an effective outright ban.

Most International Federations have followed the IOC's line, but some including athletics and equestrian led by IOC members have maintained their original stances.

Estonian Olympic Committee President Urmas Sõõrumaa and secretary general Siim Sukles, Latvian Olympic Committee (LOK) President Janis Buks and secretary general Kārlis Lejnieks and NOC of Lithuania President Daina Gudzinevičiūtė, who is also an IOC member, discussed the issue at a meeting in Lithuania's capital Vilnius.

The question of Russian and Belarusian athletes' participation in sport has added significance with the IOC stressing it is still undecided on their inclusion as neutrals at the Paris 2024 Olympics.

The Baltic leaders underlined their stance that Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials should remain excluded from sport until the war in Ukraine ends.

The joint statement insists Russia and Belarus should be excluded from international sport
The joint statement insists Russia and Belarus should be excluded from international sport "as long as the brutal war" in Ukraine continues ©LTOK

"We, the Presidents of the National Olympic Committees of the three Baltic Countries, declare that as long as the brutal war by Russia and its ally Belarus continues against the independent state of Ukraine and its people, Russian and Belarusian athletes and sports-related persons have no place in the international sports movement," they declared in a signed joint statement.

"Olympic sport is a powerful tool and is guided by strong values: excellence, respect, and friendship.

"However, in a specific case, the proposed solutions by governing sports bodies are not acceptable to all athletes, because they face an unpleasant choice and an ethical dilemma to compete or not with athletes from aggressor countries.

"We acknowledge the decision of some International Sports Federations not to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at any level of competitions."

Ukraine's participation at the Paris 2024 Olympics if Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to take part would be uncertain, although its Government in July lifted a requirement for National Federations to boycott qualifiers for the Games featuring competitors from both countries.

Latvia boycotted the Association of National Olympic Committees General Assembly in Seoul last year because Russia and Belarus were permitted to take part.

There was a change of leadership at the LOK in July, with Jānis Buks replacing Žoržs Tikmers, who had been under mounting pressure for allegations of a conflict of interest over family links to suppliers.

Buks' has maintained the organisation's strong stance opposing the presence of Russian and Belarusian athletes at Paris 2024.

NOC of Lithuania President Daina Gudzinevičiūtė is an IOC member, but her stance on Russia and Belarus is at odds with that of the IOC ©Getty Images
NOC of Lithuania President Daina Gudzinevičiūtė is an IOC member, but her stance on Russia and Belarus is at odds with that of the IOC ©Getty Images

Former Olympic trap shooting champion Gudzinevičiūtė underlined the Baltic states' opposition to the stance of the IOC, of which she has been a member since 2018.

"The Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian Olympic Committees keep a very close relationship," she said.

"We share ideas, best practices, lessons learned, celebrate each other’s victories, and consult each other on relevant issues.

"We also have historical experiences and memories, so we share the same pain about what is happening in Ukraine.

"The position of the Baltic Olympic Committees has remained unchanged since the beginning of the war - we support Ukraine and oppose the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international competitions while the war is still ongoing."

The three NOCs were recognised by the IOC in 1991 after they regained independence from the Soviet Union, and have all been Olympic ever-presents since the Albertville 1992 Winter Games.

Their declaration follows a similar collective statements from the Nordic NOCs last week, covering Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and the non-IOC recognised Greenland, Faroe Islands and Åland Islands.

The IOC has claimed its stance represents a "middle ground" given Russian disappointment at the conditions for participation, and has described criticism from European Governments as "deplorable".