The Kremlin has sharply criticized the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from the athletes’ parade at the opening ceremony at the Paris Olympics.

“Undoubtedly this means the destruction of the Olympic idea, it is a restriction of the interests of athletes,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, according to the Russian news agency Interfax. This contradicts the spirit of the Olympic movement and damages the reputation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said the 56-year-old.

The leadership of the IOC decided on the exclusion on Tuesday after discussions in Lausanne. The reason is the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. Athletes from Belarus, which is a close ally of Russia and from whose territory Russian troops also invaded Ukraine two years ago, are also not allowed to take part in the parade. The IOC announced that athletes from both countries should be given the chance to witness the ceremony as spectators. A decision about whether to take part in the closing ceremony will be made later.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus are only allowed to take part in the Olympics in Paris under certain conditions. So they have to start under a neutral flag. If there is a win, the national anthem will not be played. Both countries are excluded from team competitions. Athletes who have openly expressed support for the war or are serving in the military are also not eligible.